When is a Fugue not a Fugue?
As part of our My Myra-series, William Howard has assembled a programme that explores a vast and exhilarating range of different approaches to writing fugues. The gold standard was set by J S Bach in his two books of 48 Preludes and Fugues, which have provided inspiration for generations of composers. Many of these have set their own personal stamp on the medium, often by breaking or ignoring what are thought to be the rules or conventions of fugue writing. Czech composerAntonín Reicha (born, like Beethoven, 250 years ago) wrote 36 Fugues at the very beginning of the 18th century, displaying an adventurousness way ahead of his time. Beethoven’s reaction to these was to say ‘The fugue is no longer a fugue’.
Robert and Clara Schumann, like many other composers of the nineteenth century, studied Bach’s counterpoint and brought their own romantic spirit to what might have otherwise been an academic exercise. Robert’s fughettas, which he described as ‘mostly melancholy’ are especially touching.
Two recent cycles of 24 Preludes and Fugues, both written for William Howard, bring highly individual and totally contrasted new approaches the genre. PavelZemek Novák’s 75-minute cycle
(1989-2006), described by composer David Matthews as ‘one of the most impressive piano works of recent times’, dispense with almost all conventions of fugue writing in a work of dazzling inventiveness, virtuosity and colour. Howard Skempton was inspired to write his own 24 Preludes and Fugues (completed in May 2019) on hearing Pavel Zemek Novák’s cycle several years earlier. His typically individual and fresh approach to the challenge of writing 24 Preludes and Fugues has resulted in a cycle of miniatures lasting barely 30 seconds each that are intriguing, playful and exquisitely crafted.
At the heart of William Howard’s recital is the world premiere of a brand new Prelude and Fugue written by talented young composer Cydonie Banting.
- Johann Sebastian BachTwo Preludes and Fugues from Das Wohltemperierte Klavier
- Anton Reicha Four Fugues from 36 Fugues Op.36
- Pavel Zemek Novák24 Preludes and Fugues Book 3 (Nos. 13-18)
- Cydonie BantingPrelude and Fugue (2020) World Premiere
- Clara SchumannPrelude and Fugue in F sharp minor
- Robert SchumannTwo Pieces in Fughetta Form from Op.126
- Howard Skempton24 Preludes and Fugues
My Myra concert series
The My Myra series is curated by individual musicians inspired by their own experience of Myra, the beautiful 1927 Rosewood Steinway Model D Grand piano once owned by beloved British pianist Dame Myra Hess. These concerts provide an opportunity to relax and indulge in unexpected repertoire from world-class and innovative musicians.
Meet the Artist
William Howard, described in The Independent as “a pianist of quite special lustrousness and versatility”, is one of Britain’s leading pianists, enjoying a career that has taken him to over 40 different countries. William performs regularly at major venues and festivals in the UK and can be heard frequently on BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. He has made over forty CD recordings and premiered several dozen new works by leading composers from the UK and abroad. His most recent recording, featuring piano works by Howard Skempton, was released by Orchid Classics in February this year.
Need to Know
- Full £15 / Conc. £12
- Bishopsgate Institute