What is a Fugue? (or, Never Be Clever for the Sake of Being Clever...)




What is a fugue? How does it work?  Partly an intellectual exercise, partly a technique for creating musical texture, the fugue continues to amaze (or confuse?) listeners. Staunton Music Festival artistic director Carsten Schmidt sits down at the harpsichord to explain and demonstrate the basic principles of what has made fugue so attractive to composers over the past 500 years. 






Carsten Schmidt enjoys a flourishing career as a pianist, harpsichordist, and conductor, and has performed widely throughout Europe, North America, and Asia. He has been heard in such venues as the Ravinia Festival, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, the Moscow Conservatory, the Kuhmo Festival in Finland, German Mozart Festival, as well as in broadcasts worldwide. His repertoire ranges from the early Baroque to new works, of which he has premiered more than 100. He studied at the Folkwang Institute in his native Germany, as well as Indiana University and Yale. Among his teachers are pianists Claude Frank and Leonard Hokanson and harpsichordist Richard Rephann. 





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Toward the end of his life, J. S. Bach gathered together a collection of contrapuntal works based on a single theme. The entire collection, known as Art of the Fugue, aptly summarizes all that Bach had achieved in this most distinctive and inspiring genre. Includes program notes.




PERSPECTIVE: A Few of My Favorite Fugues

Carsten Schmidt provides background insights into how he selected a diverse collection of fugues to create the Serenades & Fugues concert, presented at the festival in August 2019. From Josquin to Piazzolla and beyond, this exploration shows the great richness of the fugue genre.



VIDEO PERFORMANCE: Harrison's Fugue for Percussion

American composer Lou Harrison wrote his Fugue for percussion in 1941, making use of both traditional and non-traditional instruments. He creatively structures this fugue around contrasting timbres and types of percussion instruments.  Includes program notes.




ANALYSIS: Eric Guinivan on Harrison's Fugue for Percussion

Composer and percussionist Eric Guinivan was involved in the 2019 performance of Harrison's Fugue for percussion. In this video Eric offers a thorough analysis, using performance footage and graphics, of how fugue operates in this complex and intriguing work.




VIDEO POSTCARD: Carsten Schmidt and Blue in Staunton

Staunton Music Festival artistic director Carsten Schmidt checks in alongside new friend Blue from Staunton, Virginia during the summer of 2020.  Rather than traveling and preparing concerts, Carsten has helped to pull together the Perspectives video series and contributes several on fugues.