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Textbook Counterpoint Examples

Johann Kaspar KERLL (1627-1693)

Owen:1992, Example 14-2, P. 151-3

"Ricercar on D" [keyboard]

GM Saxophone Quartet (S65 A66 T67 B68)
GM Wind Band (S69 A72 T61 B71)
GM Harpsichord (SATB 7)
Plucked Fruitcake (S26 A106 T112 B33)

"[This] ricercar has a subject which is never really abandoned throughout the piece," says Dr. Owen at page 160. To put it mildly! If you score extra points for maximizing the number of entries of the subject, Herr Kerll was an outstanding fugalman.

Owen goes on to define the term stretto and points to measure 18. The descending motive first spotted at 24-25 is then declared to be a countersubject. Evidently this work is the earliest counterpoint his book cites that contains these two features. But alas! Kerll didn't know Bach's rules: "In the mature Baroque fugue a countersubject would normally appear first in the exposition," i.e., not in the development, as here. On the other hand, at page 240, in the discussion of the first specimens he actually calls "fugues" himself, Dr. Owen seems to contradict himself by remarking "No clear CS appears in Kerll's ricercar." (I'd say he was right the first time, myself.)

Owen ends by discussing the modality/tonality of it, a matter which requires me to explain that putting a flat in the key signature was my idea, not his or Kerll's. "The B-naturals and C-naturals of the Dorian mode are almost as numerous as the B-flats and C-sharps ... of D minor." I'm tempted to actually count them, because my impression is different. But he's certainly right to note that that dominant pedal point in 34-36 is very, very proto-tonal. (It would be nice to know whether the piece dates from more like 1650 or more like 1690. Since it is given as a keyboard score, presumably it is for organ or harpsichord. But there is no fouling-up of the four-part texture on that account, a disease that started at least as early as Pachelbel.)