PnOVA American Piano Music Series

PnOVA American Piano Series Volume 1 Préludes de Paris

          The repertoire of instrumental “Prelude” began in the 18th-century with works by Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann  Sebastian Bach. These composers’ works are principally single movement, through-composed pieces based on a short musical idea. However, on close examination, it is apparent that every work extends this simple definition into a unique form different from its sisters. Perhaps this explains why composers such as Frederic Chopin and Claude Debussy spent so much time writing in this musical form.

     In contrast to the sonata form, preludes are melodically non-developmental. Where a sonata introduces themes with the intent to vary them as thoroughly as possible, the prelude rarely changes the initial musical ideas but works motifs through various harmonic processes.

     The prelude thus occupies an important status in the canon of piano music because it serves as an ideal platform for the experimentation of new ideas related to harmony. Bach’s two books of preludes and fugues known as “The Well-tempered Clavier” served as a vehicle for the composer’s interest in the tuning system of equal temperament, which permitted harmony to modulate into more distant keys than was possible using more traditional keyboard tunings. The prelude also allowed Bach to focus on chord progression, harmonic chromaticism, and spontaneous improvisation.

     Frederic Chopin and Claude Debussy used the prelude similarly, forging new paths of harmonic progression, key relations, and experimentation with new harmonies. It is in this vein that the “Préludes de Paris” were composed. Each of the works is based on one or two melodic ideas supported by a single chord progression which serves as the basis for harmonic variation. The “Préludes de Paris” serve as a platform for exposing the potential for a new system of harmony, devised by this composer, called “Bi-tonal Quartal Harmony.”

     This system constructs chords in two distinct layers: an upper layer of three notes a perfect fourth apart, and a lower layer of two notes a perfect fourth apart.The two layers set up varying degrees of dissonance. When the top notes of each layer are identical, they create a consonant sound. When the top notes of each layer are a minor second apart, they create a very dissonant sound. Each of the 12 possible musical interval relationships between the upper notes of the two layers sets up varying degrees of consonance and dissonance. The sounds produced by these two layers are similar but distinctly different from the chords used by any other method. Bi-tonal Quartal Harmony allows minute control ofconsonance and dissonance, possessing rich possibilities similarto diatonic harmony.Just as important, many of the chords are distinctly different from those found in triadic harmony.  For a detailed account of Bi-tonal Quartal Harmony please follow the link:

This release marks the first volume in the PnOVA American Composers Series, introducing new piano music by American composers in performances by British pianist Martin Jones.




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