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Bach Goes to Town: Prelude and Fugue in Swing (for clarinet quartet).

by Alec Templeton. Arranged by Henry Brant. Emerson Edition/Theodore Presser Co. (588 N. Gulph Rd., King of Prussia, PA 19406), 1938. Score and parts, $28.95. Intermediate.

Welsh-born Alec (Andrew) Templeton, pianist, musical entertainer and composer, was perhaps best known for his novelty pieces, parodies and "jazz skits" on the classics, including "Mozart Matriculates," "Mendelssohn Mows 'em Down," "Debussy in Dubuque," "Through the Ring in Five Minutes," "Scarlatti Stoops to Conga" and "Bach Goes to Town." Esteemed Canadian-American composer Henry Brant is most closely associated with spatial music or music for spatially separated groups, a genre he pioneered. As a young man in the 1930s and '40s, Brant earned his living as a commercial arranger, composer and conductor in radio, films and jazz. His arrangement of "Bach Goes to Town" was done in those early years.

"Bach Goes to Town: Prelude and Fugue in Swing" is better known in its big band version, but it has been arranged for numerous--and disparate--instrumental combinations including orchestra, guitar duo and even recorder ensemble. This arrangement for clarinet quartet recently has been re-released by Emerson. It is written for four B-flat clarinets, parts and full score included.

Though the subtitle suggests swing, in fact, few swing elements are employed, with scant opportunities to enhance the effect by adding more of one's own. (Swing is notated with dotted rhythms.) When reading through "Bach Goes to Town" with my university students, we found this arrangement works better when some liberties are taken, especially in light of the piece's title. This also helps add interest to the musical line, since the work is so conservatively scored.

The thematic material and rhythmic interest are not divided evenly among the quartet. All of the melodic and rhythmic activity is in the first and second parts; the third and fourth clarinets are underutilized and have little to do. The parts simply are not challenging enough to keep students happy or interested.

This arrangement presents few problems in technique, tessitura, rhythm, ensemble or endurance. It is in a comfortable key (C) with limited chromaticism, employs only basic syncopation and has frequent rests. The movements are short and easy to rehearse. Total playing time is three minutes, forty-five seconds.

The editing is sensible, and the piece is well laid out. Articulations and dynamics are clearly indicated. Tempo, metronome markings and measure numbers are provided. The print is very readable, and there are no awkward page turns.

"Bach Goes to Town: Prelude and Fugue in Swing" introduces, in a modest way, the concepts of swing, counterpoint, fugue and baroque style in a short, compact piece to young students who might not otherwise be exposed to these styles. For this reason, I recommend it.

Elizabeth Rheude, Grand Forks, North Dakota.
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Author:Rheude, Elizabeth
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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