Broadheath Music

Contemporary Classical Music by Frank Wilhoit

Fugal Overture in C major for Orchestra, Op.23 (1995)

This brief, high-spirited work was composed for the CompuServe Orchestra, an ensemble made up of associates of CompuServe, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio that I founded and conducted during 1994 and 1995. It was rehearsed, but not performed. The bass player ventured a skeptical comment about it really being "in C major", or indeed in any key at all; this was unkind, but perceptive withal, since one of the purposes of the piece was to attempt to answer a paradoxical question that was perennially raised by the late Conrad Bernier: "Does it make sense for a fugue to start with the answer [as opposed to the subject]?"

Structurally, the piece is in sonata form in which each of the two main themes is presented in a fugal exposition. The four entries of the first theme are in G, C, G, C, instead of the traditional C, G, C, G. This allows the last entry to constitute a point of arrival in the main key, which in turn allows the fugal and sonata rhetorics of the work to blend seamlessly. The same procedure is used at the recap. The fugal exposition of the second theme accomplishes a similar result by being "regular" but having only three entries, in G, D, and G. The texture of the work is predominantly imitative; each of the two halves of the development section (departing and returning) begins with a stretto and then devolves into a non-imitative episode in sonata rhetoric. This blend of fugal and sonata rhetorics (along with the key and the approximate tempo) was essentially suggested by Beethoven's Overture Zur Weihe des Hauses, Op. 124, although my work has a much more modest scope.

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