Six Preludes and Fugues for the preparatory study of J.-S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (Charles Gounod)
Author(s)GOUNOD, Charles (1818-1893)
The first of these Préludes et Fugues was published in the journal, Le Piano, in 1892. Gounod, who might have stopped there, continued writing them, although it is possible that the set had already been completed by then. It is not known whether their posthumous publication, in 1895, entailed any revisions. Compared to the classical flavour of the four-part chorales, similar to those found in Gounod’s operas, the preludes are more unusual. The first seems to be an exercise to loosen the fingers but a polyphonic style of writing gradually emerges in which the two hands become equal and bring out the harsher harmonies of two-part counterpoint. This work was of course written to provide a gentle introduction to the austere style and dissonances which put off (and still put off) beginners who found it difficult to grasp their meaning. The fugues could justifiably be called Inventions, because Gounod confidently and elegantly maintains the discipline of two-part writing, except for more vertical sequences providing respite and the pedal points in which the harmony is thickened to provide a more effective conclusion. In addition, the highly chromatic fugue in F major concludes with a long purely harmonic compensatory coda. Although a few flaws in invention exist (which should not be confused with the legitimate neologisms indicative of the composer’s identity and the period in which he was writing), these are rare. This is because, although Gounod’s writing is not hugely innovative, it is almost always enhanced by a use of chromaticism that drives it forward.
- GOUNOD, Charles (1818-1893)
- Genre – L’étude, un genre romantique