Looking for an exciting and memorable way to conclude your masterpiece? Disappointed after listening to a great work of art, only to have it peter out at the end? The ending is arguably the most important part of any given music work – this is where the composer must warp everything up, where the listener will leave with the final “takeaway.” A weak ending can ruin an audience’s experience.
There are innumerable ways to conclude a piece satisfactorily. This list includes some of the greatest fugal finales in the history of music. Did we miss any? Let us know!
5. The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” is an educational work, exploring each of the sections of an orchestra, based on a theme by the 17th century composer Henry Purcell. After a series of variations on this theme, each performed by different instruments, the work concludes with an upbeat and joyous fugue played by the entire, reunited orchestra.
“Falstaff” was the last opera that Verdi wrote. It is a comedy based on the Shakespearean character Sir John Falstaff, and appropriately it ends with an exuberant fugue (a fairly rare occurrence for an opera) about the foolishness of life.
3. Piano Sonata No. 3
Paul Hindemith was a 20th century master of counterpoint and the art of fugue, and the fugal finale of his 3rd Piano Sonata is a quintessential example of his brilliance. Using a unique harmonic language, Hindemith crafts an intriguing work that concludes with great triumph.
2. Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551 ("Jupiter")
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart’s musical writing is pristine and crystal clear, and his “Jupiter Symphony” is an excellent example. The final movement ends with an extraordinary 5-voice fugue and demonstrates the absolute mastery of composition that Mozart had by his early thirties.
1. Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major, Op. 106 ("Hammerklavier")
Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven had a peculiar knack for writing massive, technically challenging and structurally complex music. His late works feature unusual experimentation that would not really be fully appreciated until the 20th century. The virtuosic “Hammerklavier” is one of several enormous (and sometimes terrifying) masterpieces that define Beethoven late compositional period, where fugues are prominent.