Stephen Smith

Vancouver pianist, composer/arranger, choral conductor, teacher, and writer on music


03 Oct 2020, Article
Bach's Naughtiest Fugue: BWV 864
The A Major Fugue (No. 19) from Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier stands alone among the hundreds of fugues Bach composed during his lifetime. This essay will explore in detail what makes it unique; but first, let us consider briefly the prelude that precedes it, which is remarkable in its own way, since it is in fact a fugue itself, in all but name.  While it is far from the only prelude among the "48" that is (or contains) a fugue, the A major from Book I is the only prelude that is a triple ...
30 Sep 2020, Article
Notes on the Composition of "The Last Invocation"
I consider myself fortunate to have spent most of my adult life as a resident of the beautiful west coast city of Vancouver, British Columbia; but I was born three thousand miles from there, on Canada’s east coast. A proud Nova Scotian at heart, I have done a fair amount of research over the years into my family roots there, which go back to the 1760’s. So it was very gratifying when, in 2008, a very fine choir from my home province, the Halifax Camerata Singers, commissioned a piece from me for their ...
15 Jul 2020, Article
Programme Notes on Beethoven's Sonata in B-flat, Op. 106 (The "Hammerklavier")
"Certainly there is something akin to joy in the grotesque." — G.K. Chesterton "Monumental, heroic, painstakingly crafted… A huge canvas covered with twisting figures." So wrote Michael Wood about Théodore Géricault’s "Raft of the Medusa, " completed the same year the Hammerklavier was published. He could have been writing about the Hammerklavier itself. Both works are so large and detailed as to be almost incomprehensible, and both works occupied their creators almost exclusively ...