Chorales, Ariosos and Fugues on "Chagall" - (1995)
for Timothy Howard
This work was written in gratitude to Timothy Howard, organist, composer and
teacher, after his debut of my organ work,
The Jerusalem Windows. More about the theme and Timothy Howard may
be found on that page.
Like that seven movement work in which one theme is a musical anagram of the
name, Chagall, this work for solo piano uses the seven note theme in
combinations, retrogrades and inversions linked together through
contrapuntal practices as well as through twelve-tone practices employed in
a wholly tonal texture. As the easy modulations which come form the theme
itself were explored in many ways in the organ work, I chose to use the
theme in yet other traditional ways. As the name says, there are
four-part chorales, ariosos and fugues based wholly on the thematic
material. The opening chorale states the theme in the uppermost voice twice,
first beginning on C and then again on F, with a next restatements coming in
the alto voice at measure 15 and beyond.
Following this quite normal harmonization within common practices, the next
chorale states the theme in the soprano voice, with its modified inversion
and retrograde as the second voice, all the while the theme is restated in
the bass line in a complimentary in a half note prolongation, echoed in
diminution at measure 38. Thus the theme accompanies itself in two different
The first arioso treats the theme with notated ornamentation over a simple,
measure long ground bass rooted in the same tones.
The second arioso develops the tones of the theme clustered together in
retrograde inversion into another ground bass, with lightly polytonal colors
instancing several combinatorial uses of the theme which follow.
Next, a gracious melodic contour based on the theme is made over a long
lined bass statement of the theme, with the addition of another statement
divided between the soprano and alto voices restating the theme in an
This is followed by a virtuosic cadence, and the first of the fugue
subjects, a repetition of the thematic tones juxtaposed rhythmically against
the underlying meter. The answer is in the normal tonic-dominant
relationship, although the theme itself implies other transpositions as
well. The melodic ornamentation is fully notated throughout.
A second fugue subject in a dotted rhythm is the theme in retrograde and
again juxtaposed asynchronously over an underlying triple meter, as was the
first subject. The cross relations between tonal regions create false
neighbors moving quickly between the competing regions.
A final virtuosic cadential gesture brings the work to a close, the coda
being multiple statements of the theme and the simple downward scale
together in a simple mensural canon to echo the contrapuntal character of
the work as a whole. The tempo of this section may be dictated by the
virtuosic needs of the individual player, and indeed rubati and future
interpretation of the work is recommended and encouraged.
[ Total duration - 12 pages, circa 11' 20" ]
The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial
performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement
with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this solo piano score.
Chorales, Ariosos and Fugues on "Chagall"