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There seems to be some interest in a 'blitz' fugue-writing competition, so why not:


Fugue Competition, Dec-Jan 2017



FORMAT: Write ONE acceptably long fugue (see MINIMUM LENGTH) on a given subject in 8 hours. The participant chooses when he or she wishes to receive the list of subjects, and must return with a fugue within 8 hours (see DEADLINE).

DEADLINE: Signal intent of entry by 31/12/2016 23:59 EST. Fugue subject list will be released between 01/01/2017 0:00 EST and 15/01/2017 16:00 EST.

Late submissions will suffer a penalty of 5 marks for every hour late or part thereof.

ENTRY: Please let me know if you would like to be a participant or a judge in this thread.

JUDGE REQUIREMENTS: Should be familiar with tonal counterpoint and be ready to defend scores with at least a few sentences.




  • You may transpose your chosen subject to a different octave, but NOT to a different key or mode [THIS APPLIES TO THE SUBJECT PROPER, I.E. AT LEAST THE FIRST STATEMENT OF THE SUBJECT IN THE FUGUE, NOT EVERY SUBSEQUENT STATEMENT]
  • You must name the instrument(s) for which you are writing
  • Transposing instruments must be written at sounding pitch
  • It is not obligatory to adopt the style implicit within the subject; the style need not be historically grounded, and could represent a synthesis if handled effectively; it can be modal, tonal, neo-tonal or non-tonal, but bear in mind my irreverent paraphrase of Brahms and Taruskin: any arse can write atonal counterpoint
  • If you so wish, you may write in open score (if writing for keyboard)


Write a fugue for three-five voices (you need not strictly adhere to any number of voices throughout the fugue) for any one of the following ensembles or instruments on one of the subjects below:

  • String trio/quartet/quintet
  • Three/four/five woodwind instruments
  • Three/four/five brass instruments
  • Keyboard (piano, harpsichord or organ)


MINIMUM LENGTH: ‘10 multiplied by the ceiling of the length of the subject (without custos)’ bars, i.e. 1.52*10=20 bars for Bach’s BW 846 (C major fugue from book 1).





  1. How coherent is the style employed in the fugue? If it mixes stylistic influences, does it accomplish the synthesis to good effect? (15)
  2. Was there evidence of a good command of harmony and counterpoint? Does the fugue display technical skill and creativity? Is there a good understanding of counterpoint and its special forms (invertible counterpoint)? (20)
  3. Was the use of texture suitable for the subject? Is it too thick/thin? Was the use of contrapuntal combinations forced? (20)
  4. Was there a good sense of structure throughout the piece? Is there a good sense of the tonal (or formal, if non-tonal) structure? Were contrapuntal devices and textures used in a directed way? How connected is the episodic material to the rest of the fugue? Is there a good balance between episode and fugal statements? Is it of a good length (not too long or short)? Is the length justified by the content? (20)
  5. How idiomatic is the writing for the instruments chosen? (10)
  6. Are there any notational issues (wrong spelling of accidentals; failure to understand the metrical implications of time signatures)? Are all instances of the subject/countersubject(s)/important contrapuntal material labelled? Is the presentation neat? (10)
  7. What was the quality of the media file? (5)

A discretionary 5 points may be given by the judges if the participant provides a write-up on how they approached writing the fugue (Why choose this subject and this instrumentation? Why the heavy use of stretti? Etc).

NOTE: Plagiarism will be heavily penalised; label ALL quotations if used.



‘Fugues in [the first] class will demonstrate excellent technical command. They will show a good understanding of musical architecture, will achieve a fine balance between all aspects of the design (especially tonal and textural), and will convey a strong sense of unity compositional vision. Crucially, counterpoint and harmony will be well balanced; the former will create excellent harmony, and the latter will create excellent counterpoint. Episodes will demonstrate imagination and technical skill in developing and manipulating the musical material, and in modulating between entries of the Subject/Answer. The Answer will show understanding of standard stylistic practices, and the Countersubject will provide an excellent counterpoint to the Subject/Answer. Invertible counterpoint will be handled confidently. The notation will generally be correct.’

(Cribbed; sorry Dr W.!)



  1. johnbucket
  2. Sonataform
  3. Monarcheon
  4. [placeholder]



  1. Noah Brode
  2. ChristianPerrotta
  3. danishali903
  4. fishyfry
  5. maestrowick
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Well take a look at the image below: you'll see that the E is represented by a custos:




so we'll exclude that from the length of the subject (i.e. the length of the subject is 2 bars). Take the ceiling of that (i.e. round that up to the nearest whole number), which is 2 anyway, and multiply that by 10, so you get 20. If you run the numbers on the Bach subject (it ends on the first semiquaver on the third beat of the second bar; hence that E will be represented by a custos), you'll see that it's 1.5 bars long, take the ceiling of that, which is 2, and multiply that by 10. Hope that helps.


I realise this might be a bit contentious, so I will include the minimum length next to each subject on the actual list.

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Man, I'm so in doubt if I enter as a judge or a participant... put me in the participants for now.

One question: the  "You may write in open score (if writing for keyboard)" guideline is neceessary? I understand that "may" means that you can do it, but does it mean, in this context, that we "must" write in open score?

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