Rowley - Fugue

Interpreting the Music

Teaching & Learning the Piece

Rowley: Fugue
Grade 1 Piano

Main features of this piece

• A minor
• Some black notes
• Counterpoint
• No chords
• No big leaps

The fugue Although composed in the 1940’s, this beautifully-crafted piece takes its inspiration directly from the Baroque fugues of 200 years earlier. It provides a rewarding introduction to the style and can be used to explain how to listen for the way the voices chase and copy each other.

The structure Written in A minor, starting with a RH theme or “subject”, it touches on E minor when the LH answers a fourth below using exactly the same pattern of tones and semitones (known as a “real” answer). After an “episode” (bars 7-12) the fugue subject returns in A minor, first in the LH then in the RH, for a confident finish.

In the original set of Miniature Preludes and Fugues Rowley also signals the places where he uses fugue devices: in this one he marks “stretti” (sic: normally stretto) where the LH copies the RH sooner than usual.

Expression and phrasing Unlike a baroque fugue score, which will usually lack phrase and dynamic markings, this is helpfully marked for expression and phrasing. Where there are no phrase marks in bars 7-11, it makes makes sense to feel the RH quavers as legato groups of four and perhaps lightly detach the first one of each bar. The LH can come off at the same time.

This also helps with the awkward moment in bar 11 where the RH has to replace the LH on E. However, avoid over-accenting the first beat. If playing continuous legato in the RH instead, make sure that the LH rests are observed – this takes an effort of co-ordination, which will require practice.

The tone in performance should sound bright and clear, with neat fingerwork. This brightness should not sound harsh in the loud passages or become dull in the quiet bars. The forte marking for the opening does not mean starting with a row of loud notes! They should be musically shaped, with the upward stepwise movements getting a little crescendo.

Avoid banging the thumb down on the first note – it will sound more musical if the main emphasis waits until the next A in bar 3. Having given the first 3 bars a distinctive musical shape the rest of the piece can re-use that sound each time the subject returns, so that it really does sound like “proper” fugue playing. The student can practise this by playing only the subject in each of its four appearances, listening to how it sounds each time and working to make the versions match.

Fingering In bars 8 and 9 RH, if the student is not comfortable with using the 5th finger in each repeat there are other possibilities: if you like to follow the rule that the same music should have the same fingering, use 3 or 4.

Alternatively you can treat it as a single five-finger position through to bar 11.

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