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splendid > reviews > 4/30/2004
Henry Martin
Henry Martin
Preludes and Fugues, Part 2
Bridge


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Praeludium et Fuga XIII in G-flat Major (Slow Drag)"

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Skeptics have been counting fugal writing out for centuries; even J.S. Bach was thought of as a hopelessly old-fashioned composer during his lifetime for writing in such a relentlessly contrapuntal style. Time and again, the fugue has come back strong, even in the works of Twentieth century composers such as Bartok and Hindemith. Composer Henry Martin, a Rutgers University professor and pianist, makes a case for the fugue's continued relevance in the Twenty-first century with this persuasive collection of his own fugues.

Martin's writing can,in many ways, be compared to that of Paul Hindemith in his own mammoth collection of fugues, Ludus Tonalis. Both composers use tonal centers as strong reference points, but feel free to engage in rather chromatic flights of fantasy during often-digressive journeys away from tonic and back again. This is particularly true of Martin's prelude and fugue in F#-minor, with its rollicking bass motive and dizzying counter-subject. Other pieces adopt a kind of Coplandesque "Americana" sound, like the pastoral fugue in G Major.

Martin is heavily involved, both as scholar and performer, in the world of jazz. As such, it is no surprise that some of the album's strongest fugues retain elements of jazz style. The "Praeludium et Fuga XIII in G-flat Major (Slow Drag)" is the most blatantly jazzy of these; Martin plays this contrapuntal rag with aplomb.



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