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Mendy Smith

The Fugue Count

July 13, 2007 at 5:54 AM

My quartet played some of Bach's fugues tonight. They seem quite simple on the surface - lots of half notes, quarter notes with a few 1/16ths thrown in for good measure (pun intended). Practicing these by yourself is quite boring. I ended up running through them quickly then putting them aside. Well, throw in 2 violins and a cello into the mix and the story is entirely different. Mis-count your 15 measures of rests before you come in and you don't know you are off until the piece ends and you are either still playing when everyone else finished or visa versa. Even worse is when the piece ends on a fermata, and you only clue that you are off by either a beat or a whole measure is the occasional "off note" that didn't quite sound right with everyone else. But when everyone is couting correctly at the exact same tempo - WOW - you can definitely feel the music resonate.
From Albert Justice
Posted on July 13, 2007 at 6:06 AM
I hear you Mendy! I share your enthusiasm. Yes it does sometimes resonate.
From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on July 13, 2007 at 8:06 PM
I'm just curious - what fugues did you play exactly? Were they from The Art of Fugue by chance? Ever since I heard the Emerson Quartet's recording of those I've wanted to try some out.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on July 14, 2007 at 5:04 AM
Ensemble playing is always more demanding than playing alone. You have to be precisely correct with both intonation and rhythm. Small mistakes really stand out when they don't fit with the correct notes played by others.

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