PRELUDE AND FUGUETTO – Solo Piano Improvisation | AsteriskedMusic.com

Little Fugue

During the Baroque era, it wasn’t all that common (compared to the Classical, Romantic, and Modern periods, certainly) to have solo keyboard pieces, although some significant works for solo keyboard did exist, especially in the works of Bach and Buxtehude (for example, The Well Tempered Klavier, by J.S. Bach). Part of the reason for this was that the piano had not been invented. They had the organ, the harpsichord, and the clavier, but each of these instruments had limited capacity in terms of volume control. In the case of the organ, you could pull out more stops, but even then, you were talking about sharply graduated stages of volume, which could not accomplish the same level of artistic expressiveness as the piano. Once the piano (or, “fortepiano,” as it was originally called, which, in Italian mean “the loud-quiet;” getting its name from the fact that you could control how loudly or quietly you could play) was invented, composers became excited about the possibilities for the instrument, and the literature for solo keyboard music exploded. But back in the Baroque period, prior to the classical version of the sonata form, which came to dominate two centuries of instrumental classical musical form in one way or another, a very popular formal practice was to take a form, such as a fugue, fuguetto, fantasia, toccata, passacaglia, etc., and put a prelude in front of it, to compile a nice little two-movement piece. The prelude and fugue, in particular, was a form that produced a lot of great keyboard music, mostly because of J.S. Bach’s The Well Tempered Klavier. This piece is a prelude and fuguetto, which is similar to a fugue, but shorter. “Fuguetto” literally means “little fugue,” which is what it is.

Why the Title

"Rainy Evening," by Nisheedhi Adukhuri. The perfect photo companion to my piece, "Prelude and Fuguetto." a "fuguetto" is a little fugue.
“Rainy Evening,” by Nisheedhi Adukhuri.

“Fuguetto” means “little fugue.” In this case, this is apt, because the prelude, which, as a form, is meant to be a short introduction to a somewhat longer piece, is longer than the piece that follows it. As an aside, until the Romantic period, when Chopin published his groundbreaking book of 24 Preludes, it was considered improper to compose a prelude as a standalone piece; it was always a prelude to something, meaning that it was expected that another, longer piece was to follow it. Since then, however, the prelude has come to be recognized as a musical form all to itself.

Some Notes on this Piece

The piece is in a minor, with some polytonality thrown in. The Fuguetto portion is in three parts, but after the beginning, the melodic lines mostly fall into a quasi-polyphonic supporting harmonic role. I started creating the piece to express a sense of lonely, understated dejection, but it ended up sounding sort of Baroque, so I decided to expand it into a two part prelude and fugue form, but the fugue part ended up being kind of on the short side, so I called it a prelude and fuguetto.

Some Notes on the Featured Image

For Prelude and Fuguetto, I chose Rainy Evening, by Nisheedhi Adukhuri. I chose this image, because the choice for black and white photography invokes a lack of emotional vibrancy, and the wetness of it, lends it a kind of understated melancholy. As an aside, I chose the key of a minor for the piece because it also has those kinds of emotional qualities.