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Tocatta in Fugue in D minor by J. S. Bach

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    Tocatta in Fugue in D minor by J. S. Bach

    Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor (J. S. Bach) is my favorite organ listening indulgence, so why should I be shy about it? It seems as though it's considered hackneyed (or maybe that’s some self imposed, baseless shame for thinking it's the pentultimate organ composition?) I admit, I prefer a stiff bourbon over a fine vintage of wine. That’s how I roll. Do you love something not too “sublime” as a grand work that you think dethrones Tocatta and Fugue in D minor?

    I pose this question, because when I have asked similar-ish questions here, I have been turned on to pieces I love!
    Allen ADC 3500
    Hammond L100

    #2
    I see what you did there. Full disclosure. I am playing T&F in Dm tomorrow afternoon in concert. However, I do not love the piece. I am not sure I ever have. It is expected at this time of year, however. As to what could 'dethrone' it. Well that would depend on what you like about it. What would that be? The running figures? Toccata (and Fugue) in F Major (BWV 540) has that and more besides. And what about P&F in GM (BWV 541)? Or is it the 'minorness' of it all? Hmmm. Fantasia and Fugue in Cm (BWV 537)? i'm playing that one tomorrow as well. An unhackneyed Bach T&f In Dm is the 'Dorian' version (BWV 538). I cannot speak to organ music as a listening indulgence so consider the source. The toccata's that make it into the winners circle these days are mainly the so called 'French Style' Toccata's typified by the famous 'Widor Toccata' (in F major) that concludes his 5th Organ Symphony. I like several toccatas in this style: Tocatta from Suite Gothique by Leon Boellmann; Toccata from Suite Modale by Flor Peeters; ... that's all I've got. I really should get an early night. Big day tomorrow.

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    • Vebo
      Vebo commented
      Editing a comment
      I'm not fond of french organ work. The high german stuff resonates with me.

    • Vebo
      Vebo commented
      Editing a comment
      540 has always been a fave. I guess there's something about the exquisite mathematical joy of 565 tinged by the darkness of the minor key, yet staying bright and clean (mostly). It's like preferring a strong Limburger cheese over a good gouda (sorry, I struggled to find a better analogy, and this one kept coming back to me). I spent the afternoon just sifting through BVW 540-565 on YouTube. Also had my Bach Organworks Vol. 2 music book in my lap. It was mentally exhausting. BTW, while not a TOP fave, but a jewel, is BVW 556. A friend of mine used to play it, and I always really enjoyed it.

      To give context to anyone who hasn’t been immersed in this all afternoon:

      540=Toccata and Fugue in F Major
      565=Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

    • Vebo
      Vebo commented
      Editing a comment
      Put another way, imagine being at the first performance of these pieces. “Oh, that's delightful” vs “Holy ****!”

    #3
    I don't like the tocatta as well as I like the fugue--I think the fugue is quite good. My personal favorite Bach organ work is the Prelude and Fugue in D major--the "chorale" section of the prelude is sublime to my ears--its usually played faster than I think serves it best.

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      #4
      Vebo, another piece you may like is Bach's Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542. The fantasia has a similar dramatic opening and improvisational feel and the fugue is one of Bach's best, in my opinion.
      Bill

      My home organ: Content M5800

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        #5
        Just want to thank you all for playing along. I’m not trying to troll, just hoping to spark entertaining convo and get new perspectives and new things to enjoy!
        Allen ADC 3500
        Hammond L100

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          #6
          And reviewing the Widor tocatta, too “muddy” for me, not as clean and bright.
          Allen ADC 3500
          Hammond L100

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          • Vebo
            Vebo commented
            Editing a comment
            I YouTube searched “Tocatta and Fugue in D minor played badly” most results were not played badly imo. But about 20 down, I found one. But the player was clearly proud of her performance, and I didn’t want to engage in making fun of her by posting it here.

          #7
          I think part of the problem many have with BWV 565 is that is played too much, too badly, and for the wrong reasons. The fact that it has become horror film trope is really a shame. I've seen many screenings of Lon Chaney's "Phantom of the Opera" where the organist has the Phantom playing it in the unmasking scene, but if you look closely, you'll see he is actually supposed to be playing an aria from the opera he composed for Christine. Personally, I like the piece, but I understand how familiarity can breed contempt.

          I feel the same way about the Widor. Great piece, but played into the ground.

          In addition to some of the Bach mentioned above I'm fond of BWV 548, P & F in e minor ("The Wedge"). How well, without any seeming effort, is Anthony Newman able to play this piece:



          And although a different musical form I prefer Saint-Saens Fantasie in E flat Major to the Widor nowadays.


          -Admin

          Allen 965
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          • myorgan
            myorgan commented
            Editing a comment
            What a perfectly horrid instrument Anthony Newman is playing! I could only take about 30 seconds of the piece before I gave up.

            By contrast, the Saint-Saëns piece was quite nice. Personally, I play the Fugue portion a bit slower and relaxed. The opening 3-manual portion was exquisite, though. Perhaps, a bit more swing than the performer in the video.

            Michael

          • Leisesturm
            Leisesturm commented
            Editing a comment
            I agree! I am missing the gene that makes one appreciate 16' tone in the manuals anyway, but that was just horrible.

          • RogerM
            RogerM commented
            Editing a comment
            I am not an aficionado of pipe organs. Why is Anthony Newman playing a perfectly horrid instrument rather than just having selected a perfectly horrid registration. Might the instrument not sound a lot better with different stops in use?

          #8
          Snagged from FaceBook today. LoL!!
          Click image for larger version

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          Allen ADC 3500
          Hammond L100

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          • Admin
            Admin commented
            Editing a comment
            Yeah, love that one. I posted it on the Forum a couple of years back, but I don't remember where.

          #9
          When it comes to Bach, my absolute favorite piece to listen to is the Passacaglia and Fugue in Cm ( BWV 582 ). Give it a listen - there is so much more going on in it than the T&F in Dm. It can be done in several ways, from strictly Baroque to unabashedly Romantic.

          My taste runs to the bombastic, romantic style, so the performance I like best is Virgil Fox playing it on a pipe organ. I forgot the name of the album it is on, but it is my favorite. Here is Doug Marshall ( student of Virgil Fox ) playing it on one of his organs, in the same style :

          Regards, Larry

          At Home : Yamaha Electones : EX-42 ( X 3 !!! ), E-5AR, FX-1 ( X 2 !! ), FX-20, EL-25 ( X 2, 1 chopped, 1 not ). Allen 601D, ADC 6000D. Baldwin 626. Lowrey CH32-1. At Churches I play for : Allen Q325 ( with Vista ), Allen L123 ( with Navigator ). Rodgers 755.

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            #10
            Originally posted by Larrytow View Post
            My taste runs to the bombastic, romantic style, so the performance I like best is Virgil Fox playing it on a pipe organ. I forgot the name of the album it is on, but it is my favorite.
            The album I believe you are referring to is Virgil Fox Plays the Philharmonic Hall Organ At Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts on the Command Classics label circa 1963.

            While I really liked Fox's interpretation at the time, the luster has dimmed a bit for me now. I find his nearly incessant registration changes throughout to be a distraction from the core musical structure and counterpoint. Part of Fox's incredible genius was his ability to sugar coat pieces to make them more accessible to the expectations of contemporary listeners, and while I found that tasty at the time, I've come to the conclusion that too much sugar is bad for you and prefer my Bach straight up.

            -Admin

            Allen 965
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              #11
              I have a book of Virgil Fox recital pieces notated exactly as he plays them (no P&F in Cm). I was struck by the amount of super and sub coupling he found necessary even on very large organs. What I am struck by when reviewing Bach works on 'authentic' instruments is how much polyphony comes through just by playing the notes! I think a lot of the ... restlessness of modern performers like Fox comes from the lack of ... whatever it is that allows those older instruments to project polyphonic textures.

              Edit: Here, take a listen to this. I'm sure this is no ones definition of a "pipe duster" but the thread has gone past that, I think.
              Last edited by Admin; 10-31-2019, 07:51 AM. Reason: embedded video

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              #12
              Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
              I have a book of Virgil Fox recital pieces notated exactly as he plays them (no P&F in Cm). I was struck by the amount of super and sub coupling he found necessary even on very large organs.
              A friend of mine included Diane Bish on the concert series at his church. The instrument is a large 5 manual organ. He said he was surprised to find that her plenum registrations used super couplers with mixtures.

              Another time I attended a master class by David Craighead. One of the young players used super couplers with mixtures on the Bach piece she performed for him. While she was playing, one attendee left the room because he found the high frequencies painful to listen to. When Craighead critiqued the young woman's performance, he gently walked up to the console, retired the super couplers and said, "We don't need these." I think she got the point.

              Bill

              My home organ: Content M5800

              Comment


                #13
                Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
                I have a book of Virgil Fox recital pieces notated exactly as he plays them (no P&F in Cm). I was struck by the amount of super and sub coupling he found necessary even on very large organs.
                It has been discussed here many times regarding the pro's and con's of using sub- and super-couplers on an organ. On a pipe organ, it is relatively impossible to obtain proper scaling when using those couplers. I would imagine that's one of the draws of theatre organs and contributes to that particular sound quality.

                On the other hand, straight couplers ensure better scaling possibilities and an arguably more cohesive sound. So which sound is more "authentic" or "desirable?" I would imagine the debate will continue to rage for years.

                What I believe Virgil Fox did, was to not be scared of couplers. Arguably, audiences liked his performances because he explored the sonic possibilities of octave couplers, and provided a unique sound which differentiated him from other, more traditional organists of the time like E. Power Biggs. Performance-wise, it's a decision an organist needs to make–purist performances vs. a creative performance. What's the better balance?

                Michael
                Last edited by myorgan; 10-31-2019, 06:33 PM.
                Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
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                • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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                  #14
                  So, this is (currently) my favorite performance of 565. I think it's clean and sharp. What do you think?

                  I also like and amazed with this one:

                  I also found a horrible vid of some character in a mohawk playing it what I consider badly (over-interpreted, for some reason feel like it's in some soviet bloc country)



                  the console alone is frightening!

                  I'm still avoiding sharing the video of a blue-70s-pantsuit wearing organist whose performance was cringe-worthy, but she was obviously proud of it. I loathe to make fun of people who are putting their heart into music.

                  There are good performances of 565, and in your private, secret moments, I suspect most of you enjoyed it when well played.
                  Last edited by Vebo; 10-30-2019, 08:03 PM. Reason: Grammar
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                  • myorgan
                    myorgan commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Vebo,

                    You now know how Cameron Carpenter is, and have heard his touring organ. IIRC, he is a graduate of Julliard, and is one of their more colorful organists. If you compare E. Power Biggs to Virgil Fox, Cameron Carpenter is Virgil Fox on steroids.

                    Michael

                  • Larrytow
                    Larrytow commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Well....If Cameron is going to be described as Virgil on steroids, all I can say is this rendition is a perfect example of what steroids do to ones mind !! For all of Virgil's bombast and showmanship, he was ALWAYS musical. I only made it to the end of the fanfare to determine this was going to be an absolute mess.

                    And yes, that first one is a very good rendition. The player kinda takes the " stoic organist " expressions to an extreme. When I get into a piece and it is going well, I tend to show my enjoyment of the music. But we all have different styles.
                    Last edited by Larrytow; 10-30-2019, 08:28 PM.

                  • Vebo
                    Vebo commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Ok, great talent gone horribly awry? I made myself listen to the the end. Talent there, but...awful interpretation. Awful!

                  #15
                  Larry, yes me too. This is the stuff of why I am fighting the battle of 565 is a good piece, but many are making fodder to hate it!
                  Allen ADC 3500
                  Hammond L100

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