Fugue (Prout)/Chapter 7
213. Though we occasionally meet with fugues in which the subject or answer is almost continuously present, a striking and well-known example being the first fugue in the 'Wohltemperirtes Clavier,' it is generally advisable to give variety to the composition by the introduction of episodes. An Episode, is that part of a fugue in which for a time neither subject nor answer is heard. In the majority of cases the reappearance of the subject attracts more attention and excites more interest, if it has been absent for a while.
214. There is another important purpose also served by the episode. So long as subject and answer continue to enter (as in the exposition) at the distance of a fourth or fifth from one another, it is clear that we shall not get away from the tonic and dominant keys; and although in the middle section of a fugue we often find entries at other distances than the fourth and fifth, it is frequently more convenient to effect the modulations by means of episode than to do so by varying the distances of entry, which would sometimes necessitate more or less important changes in the form of the subject itself. How modulations can be made during an episode will be seen presently.
215. The student must be careful to distinguish between an episode and the codetta spoken of in the last chapter. When a codetta appears between the second and third entries in the exposition, it often has much the same character as an episode; the difference is, that the former appears in the course of the exposition, and the first episode never till its close. This will be clearly seen from the following example, in which the codetta and the first episode are composed of nearly the same material.
J. S. Bach. Wohltemperirtes Clavier, Fugue 2.
Here the answer ends on the third of the dominant; a codetta is therefore introduced (§ 193) to lead back naturally to the key of the tonic, in which the subject reappears. The codetta is made from a modified form of the first notes of the subject treated sequentially, and accompanied (also sequentially) by the first notes of the countersubject in inverse movement. This is not an episode, because the exposition is not yet complete. The subject then enters in the bass, with the countersubject above it. No additional entry being here required, as the subject was announced by the middle voice (§ 186); the exposition ends here, and is followed at once by the first episode.
216. If we examine this episode, we shall see that it is made from the same material as the codetta, but with different treatment. The two upper voices have a theme founded on the first notes of the subject, the alto imitating the treble as a canon in the fifth below. The bass gives the commencement of the countersubject, not (as in the codetta) by inverse movement, but in its direct form. Observe also how, by means of sequence, a modulation is effected to the key of the relative major, in which key the subject follows in the treble voice immediately on the conclusion of the above extract.
217. We said in Double Counterpoint (§ 307) that imitation was a most important ingredient in fugue, and the quotation just given will show how it is to be used. Except in a stretto, the construction of which will be explained in our next chapter, imitation is seldom found during the entries of the subject itself; but it is almost constantly employed in the episodes. By this means unity of character is given to this part of the work, and anything like patchwork is avoided.
218. It is for the same reason that we mostly find the episodes of a fugue formed, either wholly or in part, from material already met with, either in the subject, countersubject, or codetta. We give examples of each. In the sixteenth fugue of the 'Wohltemperirtes Clavier,' the following is the subject.
The fugue contains two episodes, both founded on the second bar of this subject.
J. S. Bach. Wohltemperirtes Clavier, Fugue 16.
In this episode the figure marked with a | | is seen in the different voices in turn, by direct, and once by inverse movement. In the last bar, where a modulation is made to the relative major, the imitation is merely rhythmic.
219. The second episode is rather more elaborate.
Here the bass treats the last part of the subject sequentially, while the figure of counterpoint propounded by the alto is freely imitated by the treble in contrary motion. It must be noticed that, though the fugue is for four voices, both the episodes are in three parts. This is very common in four-part fugues; it would be bad for all the voices to be continually at work throughout. Three-part, and even two-part, harmony is often met with, especially in the episodes, furnishing relief and contrast. In the four-part fugue in F minor (No. 12 of the same work), five out of the six episodes are for three voices only.
220. In our next example the episodes are formed from the countersubject. The subject and countersubject of the fugue are the following—
J. S. Bach. Wohltemperirtes Clavier, Fugue 14.
We have quoted the codetta preceding the entry of the third voice, because (as we shall see directly) it is used at the beginning of the first episode, though it does not appear in the others.
221. This fugue contains three short episodes.
The first bar of (a) consists of the codetta, with the addition of a middle part; the rest of it, as will be seen, is made out of the first notes of the countersubject. At (b) the same theme is seen in the bass, with free upper parts; while at (c) it is treated sequentially, the outer parts which move in tenths imitating the inner parts moving in thirds. Here again, though the fugue is for four voices, two out of the three episodes are in only three parts.
222. In § 191 we gave the subject of the seventh fugue in the 'Wohltemperirtes Clavier.' In the second bar was seen a codetta before the entry of the answer, the reason for which we showed. From this codetta the episodes of the fugue are chiefly developed.
J. S. Bach. Wohltemperirtes Clavier, Fugue 7.
In this episode the codetta is treated by sequential imitation between the outer parts with a middle part, made from the augmentation of the semiquaver figure of the bass. The first part of the next episode
is an inversion of the preceding, the augmentation being now in the bass. By the substitution in the third bar of B natural for the B flat of our preceding quotation, a modulation is effected to the key of the relative minor. The figure of the codetta is maintained in the upper part till the end of the episode, the last two bars of which are in two-part harmony only.
223. In another episode in the same fugue, of which we give only the beginning,
the codetta has only a subordinate part; it evidently suggested the arpeggio figure which is seen in the bass in the second half of each bar. The chief figure here is the sequence, the theme of the upper voice being a modification of the subject of the fugue. In our last example from this fugue,
the same material is used as in our quotations (a) and (b). In its general character this episode much resembles (a); but the figure taken from the codetta is now allotted to the two lower voices, and is seen in the alto by free inversion, and in the treble by augmentation.
224. As all our examples hitherto have been from Bach, we will now give one by Handel. The second of his 'Six Fugues for Organ or Harpsichord' is particularly rich in interesting episodes. We first give the subject and countersubject.
Handel. Six Fugues, No. 2.
In the first episode that we shall quote,
the first notes of the subject in the bass are imitated at half a bar's distance by the treble, and also accompanied by the countersubject in the middle voice in double counterpoint in the tenth; the passage is twice sequentially repeated, after which an inverted cadence brings back the subject.
225. The following episode
begins with repetitions of the first four notes of the subject (or answer), after which the same material is employed as in episode (b); but the notes of the countersubject are now used against a different part of the subject. The episode from which we shall next quote is too long to be given entire.
Here the last notes of the subject and countersubject (instead of the first, as hitherto) are developed. The first four bars of our extract show a sequential treatment of a one-bar theme; at the fifth bar, the subject is in the bass, and is accompanied by the countersubject in inverse movement. At the ninth bar, the close of the subject is in the middle voice, and is accompanied by the countersubject, in direct movement above, and in inverse movement below.
226. Two more short passages will conclude our examples from this fugue.
Here we see two inversions of the subjects of episode (b). Though the second one, in which the original countersubject is in the bass, is not developed at any length, enough is given to show that the passage is written in triple counterpoint.
In the first bars of this passage we see the second and third bars of (b) treated by inverse contrary movement (Double Counterpoint, § 454). In the fourth bar we see the inverted subject in sixths accompanied by the inverted countersubject in thirds.
227. Occasionally the episodes of a fugue are formed from entirely fresh material. In this case care must be taken that the new matter is in keeping with what has preceded. An example of episodes of this kind will be found in Bach's Organ Fugue in D minor, arranged from one of his violin fugues—
We give extracts from two of the episodes.
J. S. Bach. Organ Fugue in D minor.
Another good example of the same kind will be seen in Bach's great Organ Fugue in E minor,
228. In both the cases. just referred to, the episode is of a more florid character than the subject of the fugue. In the great fugue which forms the finale of Beethoven's Sonata, Op. 106, the theme of which commences thus—
we find an example of a different kind. Here is an episode in the key of D major, which itself begins like the exposition of a fugue—
Beethoven. Sonata, Op. 106.
After this episode has been developed for 29 bars, Beethoven combines it with the first part of the subject of the fugue in the following manner—
It looks at first sight as if there were here a double fugue (§ 175), with an independent exposition of its second subject. That this is not really so, is shown by the fact that the episodical theme does not subsequently appear regularly as a counterpoint to the subject.
229. Sometimes in the same fugue some of the episodes will be made from material already used, while others will be constructed of entirely new matter. An excellent example of this will be met with in the 37th fugue of the 'Wohltemperirtes Clavier.' We have already quoted the subject and countersubject of this fugue at § 162 (b). There are altogether four episodes. Of these the first and third were quoted in § 256 of Double Counterpoint, as an example of triple counterpoint in all its possible positions. The second episode is made from a sequential treatment of the countersubject, and the fourth is a transposition of the second, with inversion of the upper parts. This is often met with: for instance, in the two-part fugue in E minor (No. 10 of the 'Wohltemperirtes Clavier') there are four episodes, of which the third is an inversion of the first, and the fourth of the second.
230. We could multiply examples to any extent, and have, in fact, noted far more for quotation than we have room to insert; but we have already given enough to allow us to deduce general principles from them as to the construction of episodes. The first, and one of the most important inferences to be drawn from our illustrations, is the essential part played by sequence in nearly all the episodes. If we were forced to restrict ourselves to giving the student only one rule in this matter, we should select, as the most valuable we could give him, "Construct your episodes sequentially." Sequences not only furnish a very easy and simple means of modulation, but they combine variety of detail with unity of design in a degree which perhaps no other artistic device can attain. It is not necessary that the sequential imitations be at any regular distance. Sometimes they are so, as in our examples to §§ 222, 223; at other times, as in the second part of our quotation in § 225 (d), the distances of imitation are irregular.
231. Sequential treatment, important as it unquestionably is, is by no means the only point to consider with regard to episodes. A no less necessary requisite is variety. Each episode must have some feature which has not been seen in any of the preceding episodes. A mere transposition of one episode into a different key will be invariably weak and bad if no modification be made. On the other hand, some of the best episodes are made by repetition of an earlier episode with inversion of _parts. This gives the requisite variety, and at the same time preserves the artistic unity.
232. Beyond these general principles, it is impossible to teach the student how to write episodes for his fugues, excepting by showing him how the great masters have written them. It is here (just as with the "free fantasia" of a sonata or symphony) that the composer's imagination has the fullest scope. So long as he keeps within the bounds of the artistic and beautiful, he may in this part of the fugue do whatever seems good in his own eyes; and it will be in this part of the work, more than in any other, that his originality (if he have any) will be likely to assert itself.
233. Besides its use for the purposes of modulation, the episode serves, as already said, to separate the different groups of entries, or isolated entries, of the subject. We shall see, when we come to treat of the middle section of a fugue (Chap. IX.), that there is no restriction as to the number of these middle entries. Sometimes they are very few, at other times they are numerous. Consequently we find great differences as to the number of episodes in different fugues. For example, in the 'Wohltemperirtes Clavier' the 31st fugue has only one episode, and the 16th only two; but the 3rd, 12th, and 15th have six each. The number will depend entirely on the number of middle entries.
234. The length of the episodes is as variable as their number. In the majority of fugues they are comparatively short—often only two or three bars each; and in many cases it is better not to have too long an interval between the different entries of the subject. But they are occasionally found of considerable length. For instance, of the six episodes in the fugue in C sharp major (No. 3 of the 'Wohltemperirtes Clavier'), the first four and the last do not exceed four bars in length, but the fifth extends to fourteen bars. In the F major fugue (No. 35 of the same work) is seen a very unusually long episode of 28 bars. This, however, is quite an exceptional case. The composer's feeling of proportion and balance must be his guide in deciding both on the number and length of his episodes.
235. Occasionally, though very rarely in modern music, we find fugues without episodes. Such fugues were more frequently written, and more highly esteemed, by the old contrapuntists than they are at the present day. There is always danger of monotony if there are no episodes; even the first fugue of the 'Wohltemperirtes Clavier'—perhaps the finest fugue without episodes ever written—is from a purely musical point of view somewhat inferior in interest and charm to many others in the same collection.
236. As it is only by actual working, and not by any amount of mere verbal instruction that fugal composition can be learned, we shall now practically illustrate the directions given in this chapter by writing a series of episodes suitable to follow the expositions given in the last chapter—in three parts in § 194, and in four parts in § 204. They are both in the key of D major; and we will assume that the next appearance of the subject is to be in B minor, which is one of the most probable keys for the next entry. Our exposition ended in A major, from which key a modulation to B minor is perfectly easy, either direct or touching on D major first. In each of the episodes we give, we shall make use of material found in the exposition. We shall write all our examples in open score, that the student may be able to follow more easily the progression of the different voices; and we strongly advise him to follow the same plan in all his fugal exercises.
237. We first write some episodes to follow the three-part exposition in § 194, and in each case begin by completing the unfinished bar at the end.
In this passage, the last half of the subject is treated sequentially in the treble, and accompanied by imitative counterpoint in the other two voices.
238. For our next episode
239. In both the above episodes we have returned from A to D, before going into B minor. In our last example in three parts we will make the modulation direct.
This episode is made from the first part of the countersubject, which is accompanied by a new semiquaver figure in the alto, freely imitated in the tenth below by the bass.
240. We now give some episodes suitable for our four-part exposition. Although in actual practice, it is neither necessary nor expedient that all the episodes of a four-part fugue should be in four-part harmony, yet, as the episodes we are now writing are simply meant as illustrations of the method of composition, and as our previous examples have been in three parts, we will write these in four. As before, we begin by completing the last bar of the exposition.
This episode is founded on the first three notes of the subject, treated sequentially in the bass, imitated by inverse movement in the tenor, and accompanied by a semiquaver figure in the upper voices, which is an imitation, partly inverted and partly direct, of the tenor part in the first half bar of the passage.
241. We not infrequently find in fugues that an episode is founded, not on subject or countersubject, but on one of the incidental counterpoints. To illustrate this, we construct our next episode in this way.
The sequence here seen in the treble is founded on the figure employed in the tenor in the second half of the seventh bar of the exposition in § 204. It is accompanied by a sequence in the tenor, formed from the beginning of the countersubject, and imitated in the second above, and at one crotchet's distance by the alto.
242. Our last episode is more elaborate, and is given to illustrate the incidental employment of canon in fugal writing.
In the second bar of this passage the first bar of the countersubject is introduced in the alto, and treated sequentially in the following bar. It is also accompanied by a sequential counterpoint. Both these parts are imitated by the tenor and bass, making a "4 in 2" canon; but the inversion of the voices, instead of being, as usual, in the octave, is in the tenth, thus giving a somewhat rare combination of canon and double counterpoint in the tenth. In the last bar of the episode, the canon is abandoned, and we have merely ordinary imitation, direct and inverted, of a fragment of the countersubject.
243. These examples will show the student how much variety of episode is possible, even with such commonplace subjects as we have been treating here. He will now see clearly what we meant when in Double Counterpoint (§ 307) we spoke of Imitation as "a most important ingredient" in fugues. In fact, imitation and sequence are the chief essentials of good episodes. Let the student now turn back to the expositions he has written as exercises on the last chapter, and utilize his material (subjects, countersubjects, codettas, and incidental counterpoints) for the construction of many different episodes, after the manner which we have shown him in this chapter. He should write five or six episodes for each fugue, varying the keys to which he modulates. For the present he should not go beyond the nearly related keys.