Little Fugue on the Scala enigmatica - (2015)    

for organ


 A Wikipedia article notes, "Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, who supposedly invented the scale not actually returned to composition with this, 'arbitrary scale,' in his 'Ave Maria' (sulla scala enigmatica)" (1889, revised 1898), in response to a challenge printed in the Milan Gazzetta musicale to employ a musical conundrum. The 'Ave Maria', compiled as part of the Quattro Pezzi Sacri (1898) [4 sacred pieces], has been described as, 'that still almost incomprehensible into-one-another-gliding of harmonies over the entirely 'unnatural' scala enigmatica'. The piece features the scale both in its harmonies and as a cantus firmus throughout the short piece in half-note values in the bass and then each successively higher voice accompanying, 'queer counterpoint far-fetched and difficult of intonation; [and] the total effect is almost, if not quite, as musical as it is curious'."


The construction of the subject from the scale itself is basic, stating the notes in succession with the exception of the second degree and then using it as the 'destination' of a repeated fifth degree because the raised five and lowered second degrees of this scale create the interval of the fifth which was supposed to be 'avoided' in the scale's melodic and harmonic implications. The opening is a quote from the last phrase of Verdi's Ave Maria moving from D flat to C, with decoration, which leads to the fugue subject accompanied by the ascending scale in the pedal moving from C to C sharp, the enharmonic of D flat in the scale. Thus in four measures the enigmatic scale is stated canon and as filigree five times. Successive statements are also canons. Just as Verdi used the scale as a cantus firmus, it is stated many times in the pedal in alternation with the scale's use as contrapuntal subject. In like manner, the scale's notes are compacted into the single gesture of the last measure of the work, as from the quotation of Verdi which begins in D flat to the final C sharp chord.



4 pages, circa 4' 00" an MP3 demo is here: 


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 organ score.


Little Fugue on the Scala enigmatica