Like most piano students of the last century, composer Henry Martin (b. 1950) from early on always kept Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier near at hand while practicing at the piano. By the time he discovered composing, as an adult, Martin admits that by force of habit he kept reaching for the Bach, feeling almost innately comfortable and at home composing new music within the structures he admired there. So, in the span of ten years (1990 to 2000), Martin eventually completed an entire cycle of preludes and fugues for the piano. Although styled after Bach, the works exhibit Martin’s own eclecticism mixing 20th-century modernism, bebop, ragtime, and Impressionism. The cycle went on to win several awards, securing Martin a reputation as a new prelude-and-fugue writer.
In such a Bach-dominated musical universe as Martin’s, it might have been inevitable that the pipe organ would call him to yet more prelude-and-fugue duty. An aficionado who runs a radio show and website for pipe organ, Michael Barone, approached Martin to start writing a new cycle of preludes and fugues, unrelated to his cycle for piano.
Martin specifically wrote the E-major installment of the new pipe organ cycle for Demers, taking up her challenge after she gave a recital in Nashville to write something country-and-western. This he accomplished by mimicking banjo patterns from bluegrass music, but also by using a Bach E-minor prelude and fugue as a muse. As for Martin’s G-flat-major Prelude and Fugue for pipe organ, this time he turned to a purely abstract musical world.