This video will discuss Shostakovich’s D-flat major fugue from his “24 Preludes and Fugues,” Opus 87, one of the most spectacular fugues in the set. A little-known fact about Shostakovich is that he performed the entire Well-Tempered Clavier of Bach when he was only 11 years old. More than 30 years later, he composed this set as an obvious homage to the great master. The four-voice fugue begins with this frantic subject, and its paired countersubject. Notice the diverging wedge-like contour of the subject, both at the beginning and at the end. This is reminiscent of Bach’s famous A-minor organ fugue, BWV 548, nicknamed “The Wedge” due to the similar contour of its subject. Although the Shostakovich subject begins with D-flat, and the answers follow convention by beginning a perfect fifth higher on A-flat, the beginning of this fugue is only nominally in D-flat major and is quasi-tonal at best. This is partly because the subject uses eleven of the twelve chromatic semi-tones. But notice that the same is true of the Bach subject, yet it manages to sound like it’s still in E minor. Shostakovich’s D-flat major fugue frequently weaves in material from the prelude. The first example of this is in the middle portion of the subject itself derived from this seemingly unimportant moment of the prelude. The subject and countersubject enter many times before this stunning simultaneous entry of the subject and its augmentation (played twice as slowly). The first two augmented entries are truncated to the length of the original subject But the third augmented entry is a complete statement, first paired with the original and then with an additional truncated augmented entry that continues on as this non-augmented fragment. Now listen to the fugue up to this point. After these spectacularly complicated augmented entries, Shostakovich humorously recalls the simple thirds that opened the prelude. Notice, how puerile and overtly tonal the opening of the prelude sounds with these thirds accompanying a theme that many have compared to the tune of “We Wish you a Merry Christmas.” Notice also the comical ending of the prelude with wrong notes interspersed between bombastic D-flat major V-I cadences. These thirds in the fugue momentarily recapture the simplicity of the prelude, but this is immediately shattered by close strettos of the subject. The first stretto is at the distance of a single measure. This is interrupted again by the bombastic cadence and thirds from the prelude before a second stretto begins, this time at the distance of two measures. The remainder of the fugue is peppered with the silly cadences from the prelude leading to an even more augmented fragment (this time three times slower) appearing simultaneously with the non-augmented subject and countersubject, that is answered by the remainder of the subject in a different voice, no longer augmented. The fugue ends with the extended wedge portion of the subject with a similar wedge-like widening of the chords above followed by the overtly D-flat major ending. Now listen to the entire fugue without interruption.