The Highly Personal Preludes and Fugues of Matt Dibble

When I was getting my masters in composition, my advisor warned me not to be a desk drawer composer. “Write for commission, write for performers, write music intended to be heard,” he said. “Don’t write music that just gets stored away in a desk drawer that no one ever hears.”

Matt Dibble was certainly not a desk drawer composer. He was a multi-instrumentalist and played jazz, rock, and punk professionally. Dibble produced recordings for his own bands (Super db and DOLLYman) and others. Dibble also composed classical music, mostly for piano. 

But he did have some desk drawer music. In 2015 Dibble began writing a series of preludes and fugues. Inspired by J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, he wrote 24 of them, one for each of the major and minor keys. None of them were publicly performed during his lifetime. These were very personal pieces, created for himself to enjoy. 

Dibble died at age 41 in 2021. The set was completed shortly before his death. Dibble knew and admired the artistry of pianist Freddy Kempf. One of Dibble’s last wishes was for Kempf to take these works out of the drawer and present them to the world. Hence, this album. 

Dibble’s wide-ranging musical interests are on display here. These are not academic exercises. Dibble remains true to the forms established by Bach. The preludes are free-ranging, while the fugues are tightly organized.

Some have a “classical” sound — albeit one that could not come from any century but the 21st. But Dibble goes further. The Prelude on B-flat3 is subtitled “Alone – 5 am.” It has a wistful piano bar vibe and leads nicely into a jazz fugue. “Samarkand” is the subtitle for Prelude and Fugue on G#m3. This is full of the energy and odd meters of Ubekistanian folk music. 

Dibble chose wisely. Freddy Kempf delivers 24 superb performances. He easily adapts to the style of each piece. Whether classical, jazz, rock, or folk — his performances are convincing and authentic.

Yes, composers should write music to be performed. But sometimes writing just for oneself can yield a masterwork. As in the case of Matt Dibble’s 24 Preludes and Fugues. Truly individualistic, truly wonderful.    

Matt Dibble: 24 Preludes and Fugues
Freddy Kempf, piano
Divine Art DDX 21243

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