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Nine Etudes
in Fugue Style
Vols. 1 & 2

Tomas Svoboda

solo piano
upc# 6 11226 00152 0

Duration: 58 min.

Price: $14.95

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About the Music

   Seminal work by a major American composer, these piano etudes have been compared to the keyboard works of Bela Bartok by editors of Piano Quarterly, once the most highly respected American publication on piano music.

   Nine Etudes in Fugue Style, Vol. I, Op. 44 was a two-year project (1965-66). The fugue form has always been a favorite of Svoboda's since the earliest stage of his musical career. At the age of 12 years he was already composing fugues, having enthusiastically studied those of J.S. Bach. When he entered the Prague Conservatory of Music he quickly discovered the organ, the most natural instrument for this form.

   During the winter of 1965, just before immigration to the United States, Svoboda rented an upright piano in Frankfurt and started to compose the first fugue of these etudes, originally titled Nine Fugues for Piano. The following year, when the whole family settled in Los Angeles, Svoboda enjoyed the hospitality of renowned mathematician, Raymond Redheffer, also a pianist, and there in 1966, Nine Fugues for Piano were finished and later performed many times by the composer during his studies at the University of Southern California.

   In the first volume the composer's intention was for maximum contrast between movements. In a review of the Svoboda's 1966 performance at the San Francisco State School of Creative Arts, the San Francisco Examiner's renowned critic Arthur Bloomfield suggested changing the title to Nine Etudes in Fugue Style.

   Though each piece is constructed in classical fugal exposition (entrance of second voice always at the dominant), each movement offers atypical keyboard accompaniments. Intentionally, this approach infuses the form with new life, apart from the tedious, academically correct fugue. Upon reflection Svoboda, inspired by Bloomfield's suggestion, changed the title.

   Nine Etudes in Fugue Style, Vol. II, Op. 98 was inspired by the death of composer's father. May 18, 1980, on the very day that Mount St. Helens erupted, in southern Washington just fifty miles from Portland across the Columbia River, Antonin Svoboda passed away. The following month in response to his loss, Tomas began the 10th etude in fugue style. This was the first in a second volume of etudes, which took five years to compose.

   The second volume differs from the first in many aspects. In each movement the fugal exposition never follows the classical harmonic. Furthermore, some fugal subjects are in three to four voices simultaneously, and occasionally new themes are introduced in a developmental section.

CD image
cover: Jan Kavan Sr.

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NINE ETUDES in Fugue Style (Vol. I) for Piano, Op.44 (1966)  
    [1]  Allegro con brio (3 voice) LISTEN
    [2]  Lento (4 voice) LISTEN
    [3]  Presto (2 voice) LISTEN
    [4]  Allegro moderato (4 voice) LISTEN
    [5]  Moderato (2 voice) LISTEN
    [6]  Adagio (4 voice) LISTEN
    [7]  Allegro vivace (4 voice) LISTEN
    [8]  Andante (5 voice) LISTEN
    [9]  Allegro con humore (3 voice) LISTEN
NINE ETUDES in Fugue Style (Vol. II) for Piano, Op.98 (1980-84)  
    [10]  Moderato (Triple 3 voice) LISTEN
    [11]  Allegro vivace (3 voice) LISTEN
    [12]  Con moto (6 voice) LISTEN
    [13]  Allegro energico (2 voice) LISTEN
    [14]  Moderato, poco rubato (2 voice) - a la Violin LISTEN
    [15]  Allegretto (3 voice) LISTEN
    [16]  Moderato (3 voice) LISTEN
    [17]  Vivace (4 voice) LISTEN
    [18]  Lento maestoso (Quadruple 3 voice) LISTEN


"...a talent to be reckoned with."
-- San Francisco Examiner

"...beautifully recorded...all well-crafted...memorable moments...propulsive flourishes..."
-- Brett Campbell, Eugene Weekly

"...as talented in playing the piano as he is in writing for it."
-- Los Angeles Times

"...lots of catchy tunes and rhythmic twists...considerable variety in tempo and energy-level...mood typically straightforward and unexaggerated...style a consistent, easily approachable, modern-but-conservative idiom based on enriched tonal harmonies and traditional procedures and textures."
-- Mark L. Lehman - American Record Guide (May-June 2003 issue)

"...bridges the gap between tonal and atonal music..."
"...dramatic and often texturally complex."
"...a totally personal and very interesting musical voice."

-- David Denton - Fanfare Magazine (March-April 2001 issue)

"...most heartfelt and appropriate... decidedly Coplandesque in its harmonic language, yet with something original to say as well."
-- New York Times; re: Svoboda's Chorale in E flat (homage to Aaron Copland) Op. 118 for Piano Quintet

"Ever since we got our first look at some of his music we have been convinced of his marvelous talent."
-- The Piano Quarterly

"...a neoclassic clarity and panache not so distant from, say... Prokofieff and Shostakovich -- though Svoboda doesn't really sound much like them, or anyone else, for the matter... sparkling, witty, sometimes lyrical, sometimes percussive, but never grand or showy."
-- Mark L. Lehman - American Record Guide (March/April 2002 issue)

For More information, sound clips & scores:


Tomas Svoboda's works are heard
on the NPM recordings:

Chamber Works - The Definitive Collection - beautifully packaged 5 disc set of Svoboda's NPM releases

Dreams of a Dancer - Trio Spektrum

Chamber Works - Vol. 1 - With Clarinet - composer at the piano with Michael Anderson and members of OFAM

Children's Treasure Box - composer at the piano

Four Visions - Music for 1, 2 & 3 Pianos - composer at the piano with David Svec & Daniel Wiesner

Music from Bohemia - Trio Spektrum

Piano Four Hands - Tomassetti & Cooper

Piano Trios - Members of the Martinu String Qt. w/ the composer at the piano. (recipient of a 2001 American Record Guide Critics' Choice Award)

Piano Works, Vol. 1 - composer at the piano

String Quartets, No. 1-4 - Martinu Quartet

go to: North Pacific Music Home Page

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