Paolo Troncon's Six Preludes and Fugues stand midway between tradition and modernity. The composer's aim was to re-elaborate the fugal gestures and expressive formulas of earlier epochs, while avoiding ideological preconceptions and nostalgic stylistic rediscoveries of the sort which could result in a "novelistic" development of individual preludes and fugues, or indeed of the entire cycle. For Troncon, the juxtaposition of a prelude and a fugue has a specific symbolic appeal. A prelude is traditionally an opportunity for something approaching improvisation - for creating music which fits no predetermined compositional plan, but which in effect makes its own form, as structural and emotional nexuses emerge, here and there, from within the musical discourse. A fugue, by contrast, is governed by rationality, logic, and structural preconceptions. Troncon sees the prelude and fugue as representative of the human condition in our own time: as a form capable of defining new standards of creativity.
The light and evocative chorale-like sonority of the prelude of the Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C abruptly transforms itself into an extended and energetic Fugue. On paper, the fugue has the look of a baroque frieze, spreading at times in the manner of Sorabji over seven staves. Both the prelude and the fugue use only the white keys of the piano. The pitches of the prelude are determined by the vertical spin of a single symmetrical chord from its center; they reverberate in acoustic space, creating an ample mass of sonority. The three-part fugue is pianistically challenging. The bilinearity of the subject eventually extends to all parts of the fugue, producing a rich and continually changing web of harmony and counterpoint. A saturation point is reached in the powerful strettos.
The recitative of the prelude of the Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C# has a dry, nervous character which contrasts with the regular pulse of a subordinated pedal point. The fugue is in six parts and is technically very demanding. It evolves spasmodically, propelled by sudden expressive outbursts which expand its tonal canvas.
The rapid arpeggio-like figuration of the prelude of the Prelude and Fugue No. 3 in D creates an improvisational unity typical of the prelude form. The pointillistic four-part fugue draws on a ten-note harmonic series in which the pivotal D (the pivotal note of the fugue) is missing not only from the fugue subject and its answer but from the piece as a whole.
The Prelude and Fugue No. 4 in E recalls famous antecedents, and is especially moving within the context of the entire set. The fugue assumes a retrospective style "in the manner of Shostakovitch".
An ostinato semiquaver figuration unites the Prelude and Fugue No. 5 in F. The prelude works a six-bar pattern reminiscent of the gestures of Minimalism. The subject of the two-part fugue is derived from the pattern-music of the prelude but moves forward by means of sudden tonal shifts.
The prelude of the Prelude and Fugue No. 6 in B unfolds from the palindrome figuration of the first measure. In the prelude's middle section the notes BACH generate a progression of eight- to ten-note chords, and the three-part fugue employs this "harmonic" subject. The fugue expands gradually to a nine-part texture in the concluding stretto.
Italian composer Paolo Troncon holds degrees in Piano, Composition and Choir Direction from the Padua Academy of Music. He studied with Wolfango Dalla Vecchia, Nicolò Castiglioni and Aldo Clementi. Active also as a pianist and musicologist (he is the editor of "Diastema" magazine), his compositional output includes chamber music, theater music, and orchestral transcriptions. He has lately devoted himself to piano composition, and has written new works for the leading Italian pianists (Six Preludes and Fugues for Carlo Grante and Six Etudes for Massimiliano Damerini). Paolo Troncon's Six Preludes and Fugues received their world-premiere performance in London's Wigmore Hall on 18 October 1998 and have been since performed by Carlo Grante world wide. [Program note by Doriana Attili]