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Fantasy on the Theme B-A-C-H

– A novel by David Warren Paul –




Dramatis Personae


Fantasy on the Theme B-A-C-H is set in Baltimore, Maryland, circa 1969–70. The principal characters are the following:
Great organ, St.-Sulpice
Great organ, St.-Sulpice: an organ of Franz Liszt’s day
Thomas Braxton
31 years old, born in Minnesota and educated in music at Oberlin, Yale, and in Paris. Braxton, the central character of the novel, narrates his own story in the first person and weaves a fantasy about the life of the street person. Braxton lives for the purity and divinity of music but discovers that it is impossible to escape the corruption of human drives.


Archie Graham
33 years old, Assistant Rector at St. Anne’s Church, serving as a street minister in Baltimore’s inner city. Archie’s low-keyed, radical approach to his job intrigues Braxton, who accepts Archie as a friend but resists when the clergyman tries to help Braxton get control of his runaway emotions.

Judy and Camille Fredericks
Judy, 17, is Braxton’s only organ student. Camille, 20, is a student at Bryn Mawr. Judy is soft and naive, Camille is tough and politically radical. Camille knows that Braxton is sexually involved with her younger sister when she herself sets out to seduce him.


Clark Philby
27 years old, choir director at St. Anne’s Church, aspiring composer. Clark and Braxton’s rocky friendship takes them one night in pursuit of prostitutes, and their experience seals the connection between Braxton’s outer life and the dark world of his fantasies.

The man in the wide-brimmed hat
The street person whose ambiguous visage frightens Braxton, and whose existence becomes entangled with that of the organist.


Lou
A young African-American prostitute, who in Braxton’s fantasies is the sweetheart of the man in the wide-brimmed hat.

Mara
The love of Braxton’s life, now gone from his life.


Sally
A blonde prostitute who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mara.

Dr. Forbes
A wise and sensitive black psychologist enlisted by Archie Graham to counsel Braxton.


Franz Liszt

Franz (Ferencz) Liszt (1811-1886)
Hungarian composer and pianist known for his orchestral and choral works, and especially for his acrobatically difficult piano pieces. Liszt’s compositions for the organ are relatively few, but some of them are demanding pieces that continue to challenge virtuoso organists today. “Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H,” a masterpiece, is based on the four notes that spell the name of the great Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach. (In the German scale, the “B” denotation represents the note we commonly call B flat, and the letter “H” is used for B natural.) Both the Prelude and the Fugue are structured rather more freely than the preludes and fugues of Bach’s day, and the piece therefore has qualities of a fantasia, or fantasy. A Romantic in every sense of the word, Liszt’s love affairs scandalized high society.


© 1997 by David Warren Paul. All rights reserved.

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