Reminiscences and Reflections, op. 46, is a series of twelve Preludes and Fugues&emdash;one on each pitch&emdash;written intermittently over a five-year period from 1993 to 1998. Initially it operated as a kind of sketch-book for other pieces I was composing on commission. Often the fugues were written first and the preludes was designed to reflect the harmonic content of the fugue.
The references in the title were to some of my own pieces for which I had written piano models. For example, the Prelude and Fugue in F, is largely the model for the second movement of my Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra called The Sentimental Muse. The Prelude in C#, "Habanera," and its accompanying fugue are elaborations on the first movement of my Song and Dance , a divertimento for chamber orchestra. Similarly, the G ("Song and Dance"), Ab ("Sing-a-long"), and A ("Last Dance") Preludes and Fugues are the piano models for the second, third, and fourth movements of Song and Dance. The Fugue in A also provided the conclusion of Four Pieces in Familiar Style, for two violins. The Fugue in Bb is adapted from the first movement of my trio for saxophone, 'cello, and piano, Mahler in Blue Light, "Backward Glances," the Prelude and Fugue in F#, not only refers to my 1986 work for cello and piano, River of Ponds, but also refers to the previous Prelude and Fugue (in F).
The remaining half of the composition was written independent of my other music. The Prelude in C, "Glissando Study," and the Prelude in Bb for the left hand are designed as etudes. Their fugues were written to complement the etudes. Many of the Preludes and Fugues, such as the ones in D, Eb, E, and B, contain cross references to one another. For instance, the Prelude in Eb, "Habanera No. 2," is based on the same thematic material as the Prelude in C#. The Prelude in B, "Recitative No. 2," is a reflection of the Prelude on E. All the pieces, including the fugues, whether sketches for other works, adapted after the fact, or newly composed, were the result of my own piano improvisations.
Despite the casual and improvisatory genesis of these works, they are united by two short motives. One is a gruppetto (a turn) followed by a leap; the other is an angular five-note figure that is often presented in a jazzy, syncopated manner. The Preludes and Fugues are tonal in the conventional sense that progressions are used to gravitate to a central triad. Each pair of pieces, however, is based on harmony drawn from a different six-note collection of pitches, that is a hexachord used freely. One of the technical goals of these pieces was systematically to use all possible transpositions of these hexachords. In other words, I like to use tonal and serial techniques simultaneously.
Like the Well-Tempered Clavier, the Reminiscences and Reflections could be played piecemeal. The bi-partite construction of a prelude and fugue was obviously suggested by Bach's famous "48." The character of my work, however, is closer to Robert Schumann's works with canons and the Chopin Preludes (also modeled after the Well-Tempered Clavier). I admired Schumann's comment about Felix Mendelssohn's Preludes and Fugues, op. 35: "The best fugue will always be the one that the public takes&emdash;for a Strauss waltz; in other words, where the artistic roots are covered as are those of a flower, so that we only perceive the blossom." Listeners today might perceive these preludes and fugues as dance music or popular songs without words; the technical aspects of fugal writing are there for the connoisseur to discover.
The world and New York premieres were given in March (in Jordan Hall) and April (in Merkin Hall) of 1999 by Sara Davis Buechner.