Recorded on 07/07/1991, uploaded on 02/13/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Bach's earliest organ toccata is the famous D minor, BWV
565, composed circa 1704, when Bach was the organist for the Bonifatiuskirche
in Arnstadt. The work's tripartite structure recalls the style of one of Bach's
life models, Georg Bohm (1661-1733). The Dutch violinist, Jaap Schroeder,
believes the piece began its life as a work for unaccompanied violin: the fugue
subject lies very well for that instrument, and Bach is known to have
transcribed at least one of his solo violin pieces for organ -- the fugue from
the Sonata in G Minor. The E major Toccata, BWV 566, also has a model:
Buxtehude. Bach traveled to Lubeck to hear him play in 1705, and the Toccata,
probably composed the following year, employs the five-part format Buxtehude
Of all the memorable pieces that Bach composed, perhaps one
stands out a little more than the rest - the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
Indeed, it's one of the most well-known and recognizable works in the entire
organ repertoire. As with much of Bach's music for organ, no autograph
manuscript exists and the best guess places the time of composition between
1703 and 1707.
The piece exemplifies a typical north German structure
consisting of a free opening, a fugal middle section and a brief free closing
section. However, the recitative-like sections show the influence of the waning
south German organ school. It was common in Bach's time for composers to freely
borrow ideas from one another and many connections have been pointed out
between pieces by Bach and his lesser known contemporaries. Such connections
exist between the Toccata and Fugue and
Johann Heinrich Buttsett's Prelude and
Capriccio in D minor, as well as Pachelbel's Fantasia in D minor.
The toccata is
essentially a virtuosic piece typically written for keyboard instruments. It
often abounds in fast passages requiring a delicate touch of the performer.
This toccata begins with the famous flourish descending into the biting
dissonance of a diminished seventh chord over a tonic pedal. A brilliant
passage in triplet sixteenths follows, one often cited for the apparent
parallel fifths that occur. However, these fifths disappear with a correct
interpretation of the rhythmical and harmonic structure of the passage. Next
follows a passage built around a sixteenth-note melody and with a distinct
influence of string music. After another section of triplet sixteenths, the
toccata comes to a full close before the announcement of the fugue subject.
The fugue subject consists of a reiterated dominant pitch
and a melodic pattern based on the D minor scale. The answer enters immediately
on the termination of the subject, though in the key of the subdominant instead
of the more usual dominant. This apparent departure from rule is actually
necessitated by the nature of the subject itself. Contrary to the way fugue is
usually taught today, an answer in the subdominant key has always been an
acceptable practice (though the cases in which it is explicitly required are
few) and the original fugal theorists of the late Renaissance openly recognized
the fifth below the tonic (i.e., the subdominant) as a proper interval for the
answer of a fugue subject. Furthermore, examples of a fugue subject answered in
the subdominant key can be found in numerous works by Bach, as well as other
Baroque composers such as G.F. Handel.
Many of the passages of the fugue feature the
string-influenced writing of the toccata. Episodes are built largely out of
scales and arpeggios that would fit equally well on a violin as they do on the
keyboard. The fugue ends deceptively in the key of B flat and a return is made
to the toccata style of the opening interspersed with full chords in a slower
tempo. The toccata's opening descending line, though extended through multiple
augmentations, brings the piece to a close in an ominous plagal cadence. Joseph DuBose
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Excellent, I love this toccata and fugue. I used to play it so very long ago!!
I believe David Schrader also plays the harpsichord, if I am not mistaken.
This toccata is the window to the God
Was my favorite song when I was a kid. Thanks Walt Disney for putting this in Fantasia.
I'm 12 years old, but I am also a pianist. I got my first keyboard in 2008 for Christmas. It even has the sound of church, reed, electrical, and pipe organs. I even play this piece on my keyboard. News Flash: When it comes to musical skills, I wrote the book.
It's wonderful to read your post. I hope you play this piece with gusto and joy your entire life. -Kittykaz
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