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Fugue on a Chromatic Subject

Composer: Bjorn Berkhout

Instrument: Marimba

Level: Advanced

Published: 2010

Price: €18.00

Item details

  • Description +
    • Duration: 3.30 min.

      Fugue on a Chromatic Subject was written for percussionist Matthew Coley as an exploration of the contrapuntal possibilities of the marimba, a project that has long interested Matthew. Unlike the keyboard fugues of Bach, the marimba player is limited to 4 mallets, rather than ten fingers, which adds a new wrinkle to the writing of fugues.

      This fugue subject is first presented in the right hand and is announced by a descending minor third followed by a downward chromatic descent before concluding on a major seventh. These intervals define the highly chromatic language the fugue settles into. A countersubject accompanies the next statement of the fugue, now in the left hand. Both the fugue subject and the countersubject are constructed as compound melodies, further creating the illusion that the music is crafted as a weaving of various melodic lines.

  • Instrumentation +
    • Marimba

  • About the composer +
    • Dr. Berkhout received his Doctorate in Composition at Northwestern University in 2003 where he was awarded the Faricy Award for Creative Music. He has received numerous national and international awards with performances across the United States and Europe. His composition REM, a Lucid Dream Fantasy won the 2004 Omaha Symphony Guild’s International Composition Contest and he was a prize winner in the 2006 Gustav Mahler Composition Contest with his work Eclipse. His work Zapstar was selected from over 230 submissions for the ALEA III 2003 International Composers Contest and his composition Visual Sound was nominated for the Gaudeamus Prize 2000. Twice he has been selected as a semi-finalist for the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Composition Prize.

  • Reviews +
    • Review (Percussive Notes, March (58) 2012)

      Composed for marimbist Matthew Coley, “Fugue on a Chromatic Subject” requires a marimbist who is fastidiously technical in performance interpretation of the Baroque style of composition. Although titled “Fugue,” a purist might re-title this “Invention” because there are only two voices (two-voice fugues are existent but rare). On the other hand, all the traits of a fugue (subject/answer/countersubjects/episodes) are apparent in this 57-measure piece. An extended pedal-point on the tonic (C) completes and ends this difficult composition, which demands careful study and technical control. This composition is appropriate for early graduate-level study on marimba. It is equally demanding mentally and musically.

      Jim Lambert

  • Credits +
    • Front Cover graphics and layout: Ronni Kot Wenzell
      Engraving: Bjorn Berkhout /Johan Svitzer
      Printed in Copenhagen, Denmark
      Copyright © Edition SVITZER
      Dedicated to Matthew Coley