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 Post subject: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Wed 14, 2020 1:35 am 
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Very cool... 8)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHNLdHe8uxY

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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Wed 14, 2020 2:55 am 
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I never get tired of this. At the top of the tocatta he does a cadence with major 3rd (aka Picardy 3rd) yet refuses to do the Picardy 3rd at the end of the toccata.

INSTRUMENT: It belies imagination that each key is physically and mechanically connected by a wire to the valve that lets air into the pipe. How they limited friction over such a span is just amazing. And the air chests were filled by human powered bellows. I always heard it was done by nuns.

For a delightful rendition of the fugue, listen to Daniel Pemberton's version he did for the movie Ocean's 8.

https://youtu.be/Ib7dvw5oCps


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Wed 14, 2020 12:53 pm 
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Virgil Fox's approach to the piece will always be my favorite though others have done very well with it also.

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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Wed 14, 2020 4:29 pm 
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Another fine rendition of the piece is this one by E. Power Biggs, where he plays it on the four organs in the Cathedral in Freiburg, Germany. The four organs in the cathedral can be played simultaneously from a single console. This performance was originally released in the 1970s as an SQ quadraphonic LP, and was recently available as an SACD with the performance in surround sound. It's a fine performance and a sonic wonder. on the SACD the organs are arrayed left front, right front, left rear, right rear. I also have the regular stereo LP and stereo CD versions, and even those are pretty amazing. On the stereo version, the four organs are arrayed left, left center, right center and right.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAQ-fMHFxJQ

I also have recordings of Virgil Fox performing the piece on the organ at the Royal Albert Hall, and Biggs performing it on the Flentrop organ at Harvard's Busch-Reisinger Museum, and those are wonderful performances also.

Jeff


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Wed 14, 2020 11:23 pm 
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In case you've never heard the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue BWV 564:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FilzIfTf8O4

Not as well known as the Toccata and Fugue, but should be.

Rob

EDIT:

Just remembered my favorite Bach organ recording from the 1970s was E Power Biggs in Bach's own church in Leipzig (but not the same organ).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9z0cpkmXlY

This was a famous recording tour de force back then, but doesn't seem to ever have been released on CD. The opening of the Passacaglia and Fugue has truly subsonic bass.


Last edited by shinkuukan on Oct Fri 16, 2020 12:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Wed 14, 2020 11:54 pm 
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Though I like Virgil Fox for his passion and charm to his listeners, IMHO his version or at least the version I have link somewhere is a bit too for fast for me.
Though I won't offer other organist links as an an example, most do play this piece bit slower.
chas

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Last edited by Chas on Oct Fri 16, 2020 3:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Thu 15, 2020 8:25 am 
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My favorite recording of Bach's T & C in D minor (BWV 565) is by E. Power Biggs playing on the Flentrop in the Busch-Reisinger museum at Harvard. So clean and precise ... and despite having heard it so many times over the years, I discover something new every time I hear it again.

A bit of history, and a long story:
I started piano lessons at age six and migrated to pipe organ at age 13 ... something about that instrument just 'clicked' with me. During my undergrad years (early 1970s in Minnesota) I majored in physics but continued organ studies as an extracurricular. The college music department imposed the same requirements as if I were a music major ... much study, practice and multiple lessons per week, culminating in working up and performing a memorized jury piece for the music faculty at the end of every semester. I chose (you guessed it) BWV 565 as my jury piece my final semester of my senior year.

As I recall, there was a bit of an economic slump in the mid-70s and jobs in technical fields were not easy to find (undergrad physics majors not really needed), so after graduation in '75 (following up on a lead from an acquaintance) I landed a job at a pipe organ factory helping build and maintain them. Poor pay but fascinating work. That summer ('75) the American Guild of Organists (AGO) was having a convention and concert series by multiple artists in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The organizers (no pun intended) wanted to include a concert on the Hutchings pipe organ located in the music and art room of the brownstone mansion built for James J. Hill (founder of the Great Northern Railway) around 1890 in St. Paul. Hill died in 1916, his wife lived another six years, and in her will she gave the mansion to the Roman Catholic Church.

Now fast-forward to 1975. Our shop was contacted by the AGO committee only a couple weeks before the concert series was to begin. Could we get the Hutchings instrument functioning again in time? The R.C. Church had moved its diocese offices into the mansion, and the organ had not been played in decades at least. We could not access it during Monday through Friday (those were do-not-disturb work days) and Sunday was forbidden, so we ended up having just one long Saturday - starting at 6AM - to get it working again. Full-court press. The organ was (is) a tracker action instrument and was very crowded into a limited space. I was the only person on our crew physically small enough to crawl into and reach some locations inside. The mansion had originally been heated by coal, the air induction for the organ was located down in the furnace room, and the interior of the instrument had never been cleaned. Within a hour you might not have recognized me. Around mid-afternoon it started to rain outside, and by evening a full-fledged lightning and thunder storm had broken out, flashes visible through the glass ceiling of the music / art room. We finally finished our work around 9PM that evening and everyone on our crew was just worn out. But as the others packed up tools, I sat down and played the entire BWV 565 (still fresh in my memory from the music faculty jury a few months before). The experience of playing that piece in a Victorian mansion on a stormy night was priceless.
R/ John


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Thu 15, 2020 12:44 pm 
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With reference to the “tierce picarde” in the toccata: BWV 565 is a dramatic and rather “dark” piece, and I think it would have been inappropriate for Bach to end either the toccata or fugue on a D-major chord. The Picardy cadence serves to momentarily relieve tension and allow for a pause.

Michel Legrand employed it very similarly, though amidst a tonic pedal point as well, at the end of the introductory sequence of the main theme of his score for two pianos and orchestra for the 1971 film The Go-Between.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BD1rAzJgzI

(I selected to link to the actual opening of the film, despite the brief voice-over by Michael Redgrave, of L.P. Hartley’s famous opening line, because I consider the film recording to be the best. There was a 45RPM record of this, but I couldn’t find it on YouTube. Legrand’s later recording with harp and harpsichord does clarify the interplay between the two solo instruments.)

This score is in “quasi-Baroque” style, though one of the variations is a proper fugue:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH4KWS4CYkA&t

Complete score, 1979 recording:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHNFbRI79EM

Complete score, harpsichord and harp, but note that the sound seems off:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XBQG0k0NVY

To return to BWV 565—performances on large organs, in large spaces with a great deal of reverberation, seem to be the most popular. This produces an enveloping universe of sound in which harmony tends to predominate over the precise delineation of melodic lines and clarity of counterpoint. The structure of the piece, especially the toccata, lends itself to this kind of interpretation. But it can be revealing to hear the piece performed on a smaller instrument, in a smaller space. Indeed, organs in Bach’s day tended to be considerably smaller than what came in the 19th century.

I couldn’t find any chamber organ performances on YouTube, but I did find this excellent rendition on a pedal harpsichord, which works especially well for the fugue:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cobaQ4PFsZg


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Thu 15, 2020 9:52 pm 
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PIPE ORGANS:

My college had a pipe organ in the chapel. One day a prankster who remains unidentified found the door unlocked to the chamber contain the pipes. The pipes were simply inserted into the chest, easily pulled out. He reversed he order of one rank of pipes from low to high to high to low.

Next day at chapel, the organist had a fit trying to figure out why he played a scale up it went down. Oh those were the days!


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Fri 16, 2020 12:09 am 
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I referred to the E Power Biggs 1970 recording at the Thomaskirche, but gave the wrong link. It should have been this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9z0cpkmXlY

This is a comparatively 'dry' recording, the reverberation is not overwhelming.

Rob


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Fri 16, 2020 1:49 am 
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Philip Colston wrote:
Quote:
To return to BWV 565—performances on large organs, in large spaces with a great deal of reverberation, seem to be the most popular. This produces an enveloping universe of sound in which harmony tends to predominate over the precise delineation of melodic lines and clarity of counterpoint. The structure of the piece, especially the toccata, lends itself to this kind of interpretation. But it can be revealing to hear the piece performed on a smaller instrument, in a smaller space. Indeed, organs in Bach’s day tended to be considerably smaller than what came in the 19th century.

I agree completely. The literature typically reflects the acoustic experienced by the composer at the time, and the available technology as well. Until around 1900, the wind was supplied from manually operated feeder bellows which put some practical limits on overall size of instruments. Then electric blowers became available ... physically bulky and inefficient at first, but more convenient than having to arrange and pay for a person (or several people for larger instruments) to operate the bellows whenever one wished to practice. (An interesting aside: The Hutchings organ I described in my earlier post had originally been winded by a water engine operating a feeder bellows down in the basement. The feed/return water pipes and on-off valve still were present behind a hinged access panel to the right of the console. This system had been 'modernized' with an electric blower, probably around 1910 judging by the equipment, but the water engine - now disused - still was in the blower room, lying over in a corner.) Coming back to acoustics, they drive the stop-list and the scaling and voicing of organ pipes in individual stops ... which is an art unto itself due to the many variables that come into play, including wind pressure, pipe toe opening diameter, mouth width and height, flue depth, languid position, organ action type, winding system dynamics ... and especially the acoustic of the environment in which the organ will be heard. No two rooms are totally alike, and neither are any two installed instruments. What is the volume of the room and the location of the instrument? Are the walls and ceiling made of hard masonry or sheetrock and perforated ceiling tiles? Is the floor carpeted? Are the pews upholstered? The architects of many modern sanctuaries seem to favor construction and materials that emphasize clarity of the spoken (and electronically amplified) word rather than a blooming reverberation, leading to acoustically 'dry' rooms from a musical standpoint. Fast tempi and details of counterpoint are revealed in dry rooms, whereas an "enveloping universe of sound" (so well put) which favors harmony (admittedly at the cost of hearing details of counterpoint) needs a large, live room. An interesting example is the Klais "swallows nest" organ installed up on the north wall of Cologne Cathedral in 1998. See Youtube for several video recordings, some with decent sound.
Until the advent of the industrial revolution, pipe organs were the rocket ships of their age.
R/ John


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Fri 16, 2020 2:32 pm 
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That recording by E. Power Biggs (and I’ve had that excellent record for ages) is indeed likely close to ideal.

As shinkuukan says, the Thomaskirche was Bach’s own church, where he was cantor for over twenty-five years. It is a modest ecclesiastical space, compared to the sort of cathedrals that tend to house grand romantic era organs.

The instrument used in the recording was a replica Baroque organ that had been completed shortly before (it has since been replaced by another that is considered to be even more authentic). Biggs’ recording is thus likely to be reasonably close to what one could hear if one could travel back in time to hear Bach play there, though he was known to improvise a lot in his performances on organ.

It is hard to say which is the more important factor, the space or the instrument, but I can relate an experience in this connexion. Many years ago, I had access to a theatre where an elaborate, and then very sophisticated digital “pipe” organ had been installed, with many special loudspeakers located to replicate the acoustic qualities of romantic-era pipe organs. The sound sources were samples from actual large pipe organs. I tried playing Bach and other Baroque music on this instrument, and it was most unsatisfactory. Even though the theatre was not enormous, and the acoustic characteristics were relatively “dry”, there was still that wash of sound. Later, that organ was replaced by a replica Baroque pipe organ in the manner of Silbermann, an instrument builder Bach knew well. This was a marvellous instrument, and Bach sounded just right on it. Even the manuals were physically much better to play, as in comparing a piano to a harpsichord. The Silbermann organ was shortly thereafter severely damaged in a flood, and I don’t know what happened to it. There was talk of restoration twenty-five years ago, but I think that organ is long gone.

I will say that I like music to be played on original style instruments, and in an authentic manner, as far as the latter can be determined.


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Sat 17, 2020 12:31 am 
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I prefer Biggs' Thomaskirche performance of BWV 565, but Gustav Leonhardt's is worth a listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXDh8fyydcA

Bach was 18, 19 years old when he wrote this piece, and Leonhardt plays it like a 18, 19 year old would have played it: assertive, spunky, a bit of a show off. The genius with his whole life ahead of him.

Rob


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Sat 17, 2020 1:25 am 
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I was lucky to attend a Virgil Fox concert here in Albany back in the mid 60's. What a showman and performer. More than 2 hours with no music on the console


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Sat 17, 2020 4:53 am 
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No question, Fox had incredible talent; his showmanship increased over the years. Biggs was equally talented but had a disciplined and exacting style ... but he had a fun side too; listen to his recordings of ragtime played on pedal harpsichord. I think it's safe to say that Biggs and Fox did not see eye to eye.
Philip, your account of dissatisfaction playing the 'digital "pipe" organ' is interesting. I would suspect a number of factors contributed to this. The digital samples of individual pipe sounds probably were originally captured with the microphone in near-field, necessary for capturing all nuances and details of speech from individual pipes - including the initial attack, time to settle into stable speech, and the harmonic content of that stable speech. But as a result of near-field sound capture, much of the 'wash' or acoustics of the original room itself, which was the environment for which the sampled pipes originally were voiced and constituted a major factor in the overall sound, may have been lost and perhaps was digitally synthesized to some extent later. (Loosely speaking, "electronic reverb" added.) Some reality was lost there. Another factor might have been the higher wind pressure that was used in romantic era instruments. Higher pressures allowed 'larger' sound, but the pipework accordingly had to have higher mouth cut-ups, and nicked flues which suppressed strident harmonics ... resulting in dulled attack transients and slowed pipe speech. (The French organ composer Messiaen reportedly preferred no initial transients at all in onset of pipe speech, and his ethereal pieces seem to reflect this.) Fast Baroque counterpoint on an organ with romantic era voicing and winding can be a frustrating combination. (Such was the case with the Hutchings instrument in the mansion in St. Paul, on which I played BWV 565 that stormy night; it certainly was (is) an example of romantic-era voicing, but the experience was memorable just the same.) Finally, the keys on the digital instrument you played were electrical switches that gave none of the tactile feedback (e.g., pluck) manifested in the key touch of the real tracker action instrument you later enjoyed. I built and regulated tracker actions in many new instruments "back in the day" ... standard manual pluck was 70 grams at middle c, graduating slightly heavier in the lower octaves but as low as around 60 grams by notes 49-61. Baroque literature felt very "right".
R/ John


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Sat 17, 2020 12:30 pm 
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Yes, the comparison between the digital organ and the Baroque pipe organ wasn’t ideal. As you say, there was “reverb” from either the original sampling, or added later to replicate the large space sound.

For many years I have experimented with digital instruments meant to replicate acoustic instrument sounds. Samplers tend to do best in replicating keyboard instruments. I have a Roland Digital Harpsichord that is remarkably good. It has a “reverse” keyboard with narrow keys (a newer model has “click” action keys to replicate the feel of the plectra). It can be tuned to Baroque concert pitches, and has various Baroque tunings available. The samples include the release sound. It is the most successful imitation I have tried, though it is not up to the sound and—especially—the playing experience of a real harpsichord.

The most problematic instruments to replicate are the strings, especially for fast passages that are typical of Baroque music. The attack in samples is typically far too slow when playing from scoring programmes via MIDI. And as you say, real pipe organs have various “attacks” according to the design. The big romantic era organs tend not to be sufficiently incisive for Baroque music in fast tempos, and this actually contributes to that somewhat amorphous wash of sound typical of organ performances in large reverberatory spaces.

You’re absolutely right that a standard electronic keyboard controller has a very unsatisfactory feel. Some might think that the light, simple action would be a benefit, but in fact, keys that take some effort and produce a tactile sensation are not only more pleasant—they can also actually make certain kinds of music easier to play. Keyboards with a weighted “piano” style action can actually work quite well, though they are naturally best suited for piano music.


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Sat 24, 2020 8:41 pm 
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I happened upon that Varnus video about two months ago...very good. I saw Virgil Fox in 1972, with light show. I had purchased his "Heavy Organ Live at the Filmore East" on a whim. I was hooked. So when I saw he was going to be at the Grand Rapids, MI Civic Auditorium, I just had to go. I was blown away, as I had never heard organ music like that before. Our old church organist was just boring. I don't think she used more than 3 "voices" ever, and always had some kind of tremolo going. Virgil was autographing albums, so I bought one. Still have it. Over the years, I have found several of his recordings at second hand shops. I also have a couple Biggs records, and a Carlo Curley album. Edit: I also have an album by Beverly Howerton, organist at a church in Grand Rapids. He and Carlo Curley would have a "dueling organ" series.
RW

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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Tue 27, 2020 5:09 am 
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The discussion of attack time for large pipe organs is quite interesting. A while back, I was attempting to learn to play Bach's D minor T&F on my Yamaha digital piano using one of its pipe organ voices. It has two so called "church organ" voices: one with a very slow attack time, and the other with an even slower attack time. Neither of them was suitable for playing anything faster than a dirge, and certainly useless for the fast tempo of this Bach piece. I ended up combining the least slow church organ voice with the jazz organ voice (essentially a Hammond B3 sample) to get a reasonable attack response for this piece.


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Oct Fri 30, 2020 12:08 am 
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My favorite version-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdqKG1GSfQk


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 Post subject: Re: BACH'S TOCCATA & FUGUE
PostPosted: Nov Thu 05, 2020 3:01 am 
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jeffs01879 wrote:
Another fine rendition of the piece is this one by E. Power Biggs, where he plays it on the four organs in the Cathedral in Freiburg, Germany. The four organs in the cathedral can be played simultaneously from a single console. This performance was originally released in the 1970s as an SQ quadraphonic LP, and was recently available as an SACD with the performance in surround sound. It's a fine performance and a sonic wonder. on the SACD the organs are arrayed left front, right front, left rear, right rear. I also have the regular stereo LP and stereo CD versions, and even those are pretty amazing. On the stereo version, the four organs are arrayed left, left center, right center and right.

Jeff

I have the vinyl version. I wouldn't mind getting SACD.


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