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Thread: Did Bach really compose the Toccata and Fugue in D minor

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    Default Did Bach really compose the Toccata and Fugue in D minor

    The attribution of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor to Bach has been challenged since the 1970s by a number of scholars. There are atypical features throughout the piece and even frankly broken chords. For some time there were theories that it was the product of a young and adventurous Bach, or that it was in fact a piece meant as an organ test.. There's the name -- Bach's generation would have called it "Praeludium et fuga," not Toccata and Fugue -- and a progression of notes Bach never would have allowed.

    "Bach's greatest inspiration is invariably revealed through his complete mastery of the 'rules,' "
    The evidence of rule-breaking includes doubling at the octave and the curious minor cadence that ends the Toccata, both not heard elsewhere in Bach's organ output (usually even a work in a minor key concludes with a major chord). The Toccata also brims with harmony and counterpoint bordering on simplistic for the masterful composer.

    "No other Bach fugue contains such feeble part-writing," writes Fox-LeFriche, citing the "complete absence of contrasting rhythm, contrary motion or a least a few notes that don't slavishly follow the subject."

    In short, the Toccata and Fugue approaches nothing Bach ever wrote for the organ, or ever wrote at all.

    "It is certainly very different than any of his organ works," says Don Fellows, organist at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland. "There are parts that don't fit the hands."

    So if Bach did not write the Toccata and Fugue, then who did?


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    Senior Member Jimm's Avatar
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    I have no idea who wrote it .. but in my humble opinion, I don't think BACH did, I mean listen to it!

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimm View Post
    I have no idea who wrote it .. but in my humble opinion, I don't think BACH did, I mean listen to it!
    If he did, it is about the only piece of really ripe cheese he ever produced :-)

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    Hmmm... Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Busoni, Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Hans Fagius, Andrew Manze, Peter Hurford, Marie-Claire Alain, etc... all admired the work and never questioned the attribution. Andrew Manze has suggested that the work was originally written for solo violin... and some other scholars have suggested that the piece was a transcription (by Bach based on an anonymous original source) for solo violin... later transcribed again for organ.



    It is interesting that we get members here suggesting that the work can't be by Bach because it falls short of Bach's usual genius, yet Bach scholar/organist Hans Fagius writes: "the enduring popularity of the work is not difficult to understand, since there is "a fantastic drive and energy to the piece that simply make it irresistible." The Musicologist, Hermann Keller spoke of the introductory passages as "descending like a lightning flash, the long roll of thunder of the broken chords of the full organ, and the stormy undulation of the triplets." This assessment was echoed by the Bach scholar, Hans-Joachim Schulze:

    Here is elemental and unbounded power, in impatiently ascending and descending runs and rolling masses of chords, that only with difficulty abates sufficiently to give place to the logic and balance of the Fugue. With the reprise of the initial Toccata, the dramatic idea reaches its culmunation amidst flying scales and with an ending of great sonority.

    Hmmm...?
    Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

    Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with
    those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    It's also possible that the work is based on an improvisation of young Bach, perhaps one that somebody else wrote down. I'm sure Bach kept a few of these in his hip pocket, pretty well worked out (to avoid embarrassment). That might account for some of the "informalities" that some seem to find objectionable.


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    I believe it was written by Vincent Price or perhaps a young Bela Lugosi.

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    Looking at some articles on line I came upon another theory that suggested that the supposed awkwardness of the work was perhaps the result of Bach attempting to compose around the poor organ that he was known to have had at his disposal at the time. Whatever the case may be, I quite enjoy the work... perhaps not to the same extent as the Passacaglia... but still...
    Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

    Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with
    those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.

    Pablo Picasso

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    The Toccata and Fugue is a gorgeous piece, as worthy as any great piece by Bach. I have to wonder why somebody would assume that Bach didn't write something because it has many things about it which are unique among his works. Wouldn't it make sense that a really great composer like Bach might explore different things? Wouldn't it make sense for not all of his works to be exactly the same?

    If somebody else wrote it, I'd like to see proof, and I'd like them to receive their due credit. If Bach didn't write this, that doesn't diminish it at all, but you gotta provide some genuine evidence rather than the classical music equivalent of 9/11 truther arguments before people will consider it in serious capacity.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Hah. Based on the samples above, it works much better on violin.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member (Ret) moody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    Hah. Based on the samples above, it works much better on violin.
    Good heavens---I always thought Leopold Stokowski wrote it!!
    Fools talk because they have to say something, wise men talk because they have something to say.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    Hah. Based on the samples above, it works much better on violin.
    I've heard the theory behind it being written for violin before, but that's the first time I've heard it played on violin. Sounded great! I also love the hell out the Leopold Stokowski version.

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    I've heard the theory behind it being written for violin before, but that's the first time I've heard it played on violin. Sounded great!

    When it comes to the baroque violin, Manze rarely disappoints.
    Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

    Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with
    those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.

    Pablo Picasso

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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    It's very unique and memorable. That rules out most Baroque composers.
    Doch dieses Wörtlein: und, -wär' es zerstört,
    wie anders als mit Isoldes eignem Leben wär' Tristan der Tod gegeben?

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    It's very unique and memorable. That rules out most Baroque composers.
    Oh dear! Are you losing your memory then?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Oh dear! Are you losing your memory then?
    Nope. Recall that most Baroque composers were merely completing their "day job".
    Doch dieses Wörtlein: und, -wär' es zerstört,
    wie anders als mit Isoldes eignem Leben wär' Tristan der Tod gegeben?

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