Fancies and Fugues on a Jig of Purcell


Fancies and Fugues on a Jig of Purcell - (2011)     

for organ


The theme is drawn from Purcell's suite for The Gordian Knot Unty'd, Z. 597, composed for string ensemble with cembalo for a play which is apparently now lost. The suite is subtitled, "A collection of ayres, compos'd for the theatre, 1691." As with Purcell and his many contemporaries whose catches I have used in organ works, the tone is one of a certain musical playfulness. Indeed the jig (alternatively "jigg") was used to break with dramatic works, ending with jocularity and often played by clowns and comedians of an ensemble. It was often a form of improvisation using a popular tune as entertainment for an audience.


Purcell's jig theme is stated in only slight modification at the opening, playing off dynamic levels one against another. The original is of two extended phrases, each repeated once at a brilliant tempo.



The first of the contrapuntal episodes draws on the opening phrase's pitches in a compact little fugue. After only a first six notes, the "answer" to the subject interjects.



The first variation on the jig tune is decorative in both the melodic line and some of the accompaniment as well.



A second contrapuntal episode employs the opening pitches from the second portion of the jig theme, simple and scalar.



The second variation on the theme places the theme in the left hand, with decorations above it and a disjunct bass line beneath.



The third variation places a decorated theme in the top voice, with playful accompaniment beneath in the manner of an arietta.



The fourth variation frames the jig theme, again decorated, within the relative natural minor.



That variation ends with a cadence in the relative minor, with a fifth variation also remaining in that tonal region.



After a cadence in E major,  the sixth variation returns without harmonic bridge or ritardando between the sections directly back to G major with dotted rhythms and altered harmonic underpinning.



This sixth variations leads by segue into a fugue subject based on the opening of the jig tune, the quarter becoming the dotted quarter in a metrical modulation. The fugue subject moves through a number of tonal regions related by Purcell's original harmonies.



A cadenza-like gesture returns to the opening of the theme in full organ to its closing.



The entire work is here, , an MP3 file [ circa 8' 45" ]


The score for Fancies and Fugues on a Jig of Purcell 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 organ score.


Fancies and Fugues on a Jig of Purcell