Sunday, November 15, 2009

preludes and fugues for solo guitar (again): mine and Igor Rekhin's

This one is in A major. At some point I had to stop composing in just the tough key signatures and go with something easier. I'm at C sharp minor, E flat major, F major, G major, G sharp minor, A flat major, B flat minor, and now A major. The G major prelude and fugue may "sound" easy because of the key, and the prelude is easy enough but the fugue ... the fugue is a nearly five-minute juggernaut of constant activity with a lively allegro (144 bpm, quarters) and a marching subject more or less in 11/4. Very Shostakovich meets Bach. Once I knock out a prelude for this newest fugue in A then I will be one third of the way through the project.

I have since learned that Igor Rekhin beat me to the task of composing 24 preludes and fugues twenty years ago and between 1985-1990 he composed his set and has published them. He is a guitarist as well as a composer and I look forward to the possibility of studying his works. He is the master whose precedent leads the way. I am excited to realize that someone has tackled this project before. I plan to eventually get to studying the pieces and seeing about performing them.

So far as I have been able to discover not one guitarist has recorded the entire set of Rekhin's preludes and fugues. Dmitry Illarionov has recorded three of them and Vladimir Tervo recorded 14 of them but no one has recorded the entire cycle and I, being unemployed, am hardly situated to get recordings! I am not sure the Tervo recording is even in print. I'm enough of a score collector that I will inevitably obtain the scores but recordings, probably will just settle for Illarionov's Naxos recording. I can imagine the entirety of such a set would take hours to perform and I wouldn't be surprised if for the most part people were not interested in listening to such a monumental work for guitar.

When I finished the A major fugue recently I felt, at first, my newest fugue was demonstrating that I was getting into a rut. I tend to use countersubjects 1 or 2 from my expositions as chorales near the end of my fugues. I also tend to use subjects themselves as chorales a la giant blocky barre chords. Being a guitarist I am also fond of using insistent pedal points. One of many reasons I am cutting myself slack on this project when I feel that I could be doing better is the realization that of all the guitarist/composers on earth only Rekhin has finished a set of 24. For that matter he studied under Aram Khatchaturian, is a guitarist, and started his cycle at the age of 44.

I have started mine as of 2 years and 3 months ago. Basically I started my project of preludes and fugues at the age of 33, eleven years earlier in my life than Rekhin started his project. I have nothing more than an undergraduate degree in communications with music as a minor. In other words, I cut myself some slack because I have almost no formal training compared to someone who studied under Khatchaturian! I'm not going to negatively compare myself to his works (since I haven't had a chance to really hear them or study them) I am also not in a position to say that what I come up with will be "better". I do, however, take encouragement knowing that as Ecclesiastes put it, there is nothing new under the sun and that which has been will be again. It does not make my process of discovery any less fun for these things. In other words, I am such a patent amateur compared to Rekhin anyway that what I do for fun needs no comparison to the work of an established guitarist and composer who is basically twice my age. I wouldn't mind pinging him for advice on practical considerations in composing such a set of works but I also imagine he's a busy man and doesn't speak or write English necessarily.

Meanwhile, whatever flaws I may have in this or that piece as I compose my way through the set I can revise. I revised one of the preludes with some help from oblivionmusic over on Delcamp. I am also honored to be able to say I have gotten some feedback from Atanas Ourkouzounov about a few of the pieces, since he is one of my favorite living guitarist/composers. When I get a copy of his new CD, by the way, I intend to write about it and will attempt to provide an overview of his recording career so far.

For the few of you who probably track this blog you have some idea how long I have been composing my preludes and fugues. I am excited to realize that I am nearly a third of the way through this already. A prelude in A major and I will have 8 of 24. I am also about one third of the way through my sonata cycle for guitar and the various instruments of the orchestra. Since I am just half way from 35 to 36 I am happy to realize that two very large projects are both a third of the way finished. I have not as yet been published and I hope that situation changes in the next ten years.

I hope that a guitarist/composer who completes 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar and completes a twelve or fourteen sonata cycle of duo sonatas for classical guitar can at least get SOMETHING published. Admittedly the sonata for tuba and guitar may not be an easy sell and may rarely get performed but I want to write such a piece. There's an axiom that men like to have a sense of accomplishment that drives them, a passion that pushes them forward. I guess I have found one of mine. Composing for the guitar inspires me, the work itself is what brings me joy. If I were not able to do this I like to think I would adjust but as yet I do not have to set it aside and my hands and mind work just well enough with my ears that I hope to keep working on these projects for years to come. When I finish them I still have several string quartets and a mass to keep tackling. I have given myself more music to compose that I really want to compose than I think I may manage to tackle in my lifetime. There are certain types of "impossible" tasks that make life more fun, maybe not "worth living" but more fun. Demonstrating mastery is not as fun as continuing to learn.

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