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August 24, 2005
Vol. V, No. 18

"It's Good to Be King!"
I noticed that one of the repertoire choices listed for the 2006 AGO Colleague exam was Mendelssohn's fugue from his Second Sonata so I thought I'd play through it and I did. I just don't get the piece. I might be missing something but I don't think so. I think if I had to learn it for any reason other than the exam, I would consider it a waste of time. I would never program it. It would have been better if it was the fugue from Mendelssohn's Sixth Sonata or one of the fugues from his Prelude and Fugues. Strange choice.

I have to give Mendelssohn credit for trying, especially after all he did to promote Bach. And I love his orchestral music. But, regarding the exam, what is the point of learning a Mendelssohn fugue, from a teaching tool standpoint? First of all, the return-on-investment, time-wise and energy-wise goes hands down to Bach. Secondly, there's no comparison with regard to how much you learn as a player from learning a Bach fugue in terms of form, harmony and even drama.

What it comes down to is that nobody since Bach has written a good fugue. Plenty have tried besides Mendelssohn (Brahms and Schumann come to mind) but there's just no comparison. I mean for all intents and purposes, Bach invented the fugue. Oh, sure, there were "fugues" before Bach but they were little more than glorified fits of imitation.

There's a part of me that looks at the entire body of organ repertoire and sees everything before Bach as undeveloped Bach and everything after Bach as orchestral music for the organ.

Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Lubeck -- at least those guys knew how to show off the organ as an instrument. Everybody after Bach, well, their work would sound just as good arranged for orchestra. There's nothing in the way the music is written that identifies it as specifically for the organ. Bach wrote his organ works for the organ and when you play them, that fact is self-evident. Not so with later composers.

Bach wrote in a way that was and is unrivaled. A king of composers for the king of instruments!

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Updated Pages
Sheet Music Store:
Added is "Organ Works: Brahms, Mendelssohn And Schumann," Dover Publications.

RAMPAGE FLASHBACK (It was four years ago today, about)
"Labor Day Getaway" September 6, 2001
"Many of us engaged in church music positions were unable to get away for Labor Day. comes to the rescue with a free trip to San Francisco! Well, sort of. How about a tour of the organs of the San Francisco Bay Area brought to you online by Richard Berberich and Ken Rinehart. These two organ enthusiasts have a website aptly titled Organs of the San Francisco Bay Area and I've added it to the Featured Links page (Resources pipe)." [By the way, does anyone know what happened to this website?] Click the following link for more:

WHAT I'M READING..."Dungeon, Fire, & Sword: The Knights Templar in the Crusades" by John J. Robinson. Halfway at this point in time. Getting kind of overwhelmed with all the players and their interconnectedness. The Templars aren't the stars at this stage of the story. Just finished the Third Crusade and it looks like there's another on the way. Many, many more people than you can imagine have died on both sides, and so many in awful ways. Click the link below for more information on this book:
Click this link to see all selections in Dan's Book Club:

Have a great week!

Dan Long

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