Christopher Brown: 24 Preludes & Fugues



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I set myself the challenge of writing a book of 24 preludes and fugues in all the major and minor keys and I approached family, friends, and several institutions I had been associated with, to commission a prelude and fugue each, with many of the resultant commissioners asking for references to pieces of music that had a special meaning for them, a request that I tried to follow through wherever possible. Within a very short space of time, I realised just what a task I had set myself. The project took me 8 years to complete, and it was not until 2019 that I finally put the finishing touches to the concluding B minor Fugue. The score was published on my birthday in June 2020 and I received an unexpected email from Nathan Williamson, saying that he would love to learn the music, and, because of the restrictions imposed by the covid lockdowns, it might be a good time to see if a complete recording might be contemplated. To our considerable delight, Lyrita Recorded Edition agreed to take on the project that has led to the release of the present boxed set. Very early in the planning process I had decided that the set would be divided into 4 books (each made up of 6 preludes and fugues) based around one of the notes of the name BACH (B flat, A, C and B natural in German notation), and starting and ending in the major or the minor tonality of the 4 keys. In addition I wanted to reference the cryptogram of Dmitri Shostakovich (DSCH – D, E flat, C and B), whose own masterly set of 24 Preludes and Fugues also casts its influence across my set. © Christopher Brown


"It is a brave composer who chooses to write a set of preludes and fugues in all the major and minor keys as, consciously, or subconsciously, instant comparison with the sets by JS Bach and Shostakovich will occur. Just such a brave soul is 80-year-old Christopher Brown who began writing them in 2011 with the hope they would be complete by his 70th birthday in 2013. Well, his self-imposed deadline passed, and the set were completed in 2019... The whole set is a tour de force, both technically and musically. At no stage is the composer stymied by the limitations of the forms, or the unusual extra musical requests.  He manages to include musical quotes, however outlandish, and even references a number of his own works within the musical material. Let us be honest, fugues are tough to write, but Mr Brown has the skill to make all 24 sound fresh and interesting.  The accompanying preludes complement and contrast brilliantly. The four books are subtly different and would be a useful addition to any concert programme, either complete or, as is more likely, as extracts.  A discerning pianist could arrange a suitable selection. Nathan Williamson plays superbly.  Each of the preludes is beautifully drawn and in each of the fugues all of the contrapuntal lines are clearly brought out. Even with the most complex pieces Mr Williamson’s sound is full and rounded, and the tone of the piano is sensitively captured in a warm acoustic. The project has clearly been a labour of love from all concerned, the composer, the pianist, the commissioners, and the numerous funders who have made it possible. This is another feather in Lyrita’s already full cap."  Paul RW Jackson, British Music Society Click here for full review

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