Matt Dibble: 24 Preludes & Fugues
Freddy Kempf, piano

British composer and multi-faceted musician Matt Dibble died tragically in 2021 at the age of 40 from complications following the AstraZeneca Covid vaccination. His untimely death left a void in the classical, jazz, and pop worlds: he was a musician of great breadth, versatility, talent and innovation, and his 24 Preludes & Fugues, released posthumously, are a testament to this, blending neo-Baroque, jazz, easy listening pop music, klezmer and folk music, and modernist influences into a deeply personal collection created over six years.

Matt Dibble

Matt Dibble

Only a handful of close friends knew of the ‘Preludes and Fugues’, which Matt began in 2015 and composed very privately, and completed within mere weeks of his passing. Such was his devotion to this project that, when he first went to hospital, he told those with him where the compositions could be found, should anything happen to him. With the secrecy and longevity of the project, and the incredible timing of its completion, the story behind this music is akin to a romantic tragedy.

Freddy Kempf

Freddy Kempf

When Matt’s close friends retrieved the compositions, they discovered classical piano music of the highest order, of great courage and passion, and set up a crowdfunder to ensure the music could be recorded by a world-class pianist. Although pianist Freddy Kempf never met Matt Dibble, he undertook the recording of the Preludes and Fugues with great enthusiasm.

While Dibble’s 24 Preludes and Fugues hark back to J S Bach, their conception and musical language are freer than the Bach model. There are respectful references to the Preludes and Fugues of Bach, Shostakovich and Debussy, but this music also makes nods to jazz pianists Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans, amongst others, as well as other musical genres.

Matt Dibble: Prelude & Fugue on B flat

The result is an incredibly varied collection of music, rich in contrast, colour, textures and mood, in which genres mix, meld and sometimes collide. Prelude No. 3, for example, begins with a distinctly Schoenbergian atonalism, reminiscent of the Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, but then switches to an almost boogie-woogie sequence, before a passage of Debussyan sweetness. Prelude No. 4 could be mistaken for Bach in its open measures and simple yet arresting melody, while a dramatic falling figure in the middle section opens up new territory.

Matt Dibble: Prelude No. 3 on E3 (Freddy Kempf, piano)

“It feels like it’s been written at the piano, but at the same time there’s a lot of other influence and it’s great that this set of Preludes and Fugues has almost every style imaginable….” (Freddy Kempf)

Freddy Kempf, Matt Dibble - 24 Preludes & Fugues

Such is the variety and diversity of this collection, it’s hard to pick out favourites (I personally enjoyed the more mellow, jazz-inspired tracks), and there is definitely something to suit all tastes in this generous recording as well as offering a serious contemporary take on the structure and concept of the Prelude and Fugue. Kempf is adept at capturing the essence and distinctive features of each individual piece, reflecting an appreciation of shared musical values. The result is a warm tribute to the late composer.

Matt Dibble: Prelude No. 5 on F#3 (Freddy Kempf, piano)

Released on 2 CDs on the Divine Art Recordings label and available via streaming. Detailed, informative liner notes by Jon Hargreaves, a good friend of the composer.

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Matt Dibble: Prelude No. 12 on Gm3 (Freddy Kempf, piano)

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