WORKSHOP #21: "The Toccata and Fugue in D Minor Stinks!"
I'm referring, of course, to the Stokowski orchestral transcription in Disney's animated classic "Fantasia." Colored lights, the conductor in shadow and a few animated violin bows. C'mon! Was that really the best they could do for the kids? Other compositions fared strikingly better.
The D Minor is so dramatic, I would have thought it would have been easy to animate. For instance, when I play the D Minor, I experience the same feelings every time. I guess I would describe them as a sort of struggle between life and death. While these feelings aren't literal, they help me focus and maintain concentration.
What comes closest to illustrating my feelings is something like "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." The entire Toccata, for me, is about the Headless Horseman, without the pumpkin head, I think. The Fugue is about the chase -- interesting because the word derives from the Latin for "flight." But I'm not talking about one voice chasing another. I'm talking about being pursued and hunted down.
The ending of the Toccata sets the stage, the Headless Horseman indicating his intentions, which is to effect ole Ichabod Crane's demise. The Fugue takes off running, galloping even. There's a breather here and there but before long the chase is on once again. I see the final confrontation in the Bb Major chord on the next to last page. The 32nd notes of the cadenza which follows represent the last-minute pleadings of the Ichabod character which are briefly interrupted by a final statement by the Horseman. The final Vivace announces the triumph of the enemy and the last three bars are surely the acceptance of death as inevitable.
To me this is not some flashy showpiece but a musical representation of some kind of life and death struggle, a struggle that I relive every time I play the D Minor. If I've done a good job, I can get quite emotional during the last 3 bars, feeling the acceptance and finality and, yes, relief of death.
I don't know how anyone could question whether Bach composed the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. If someone else wrote this piece, it would mean that 1) Bach had a contemporary whose talent rivaled his own and 2) that this proposed contemporary only wrote one incredible piece. I can't buy that. It's just too far-fetched for me to entertain. Now a Headless Horseman, that's another story.
From my BLOG (10/31/04):
"My postlude today was Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. There was some online discussion among organists in the days leading up to Halloween about the inclusion of certain organ pieces in today's services. Some felt that it was inappropriate to include the D Minor, being that it is closely associated with Halloween, and Halloween being for some the anti-religious holiday. My view is that it is an opportunity to introduce the full piece to people. While they may know the opening bars, they rarely hear it in its entirety. The opening bars may get their attention but it's the rest of the piece that HOLDS their attention. Besides, I think it's unfair that the piece is associated with Halloween. Bach certainly didn't intend it to celebrate one particular day of the year. In fact, I probably use it somewhere between 6-12 times a year."
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Related Sheet Music
The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
The Study of Fugue by Alfred Mann
Classic study comprises two parts. The first is a comprehensive historical survey of writings on the fugue from the beginning of fugal teaching (c. 1350) to the present. Part Two explores in depth four
18th-century studies which are its classical presentations: Steps to Parnassus, J. J. Fux (1725), A Treatise on Fugue, W. F. Marpurg (1753ņ54), Fundamental and Practical Essay on Fugal Counterpoint, Padre Martini (1775), A Manual of the Fundamental Principles of Composition, J. A. Albrechtsberger (1790). Translations of texts, introductions and critical commentary, and many musical examples. Index. Bibliography.
The Technique and Spirit of Fugue: An Historical Study by George Oldroyd
Reviewer: email@example.com from Portland, Oregon
Anyone, student or Sunday composer (like myself) who has ever tried to understand the mysteries of one of music's most strict forms and has been thwarted by scholarly jargon filled tomes that can only be deciphered by college professors will appreciate Oldroyd's more practical approach. Each section of the fugue is presented as a whole and in detail so that a broad understanding of the material can be had before absorbing the details. There are many examples from JS Bach's "Well Tempered Clavier" to illustrate the common fugal practice as well as the many exceptions to the rules. Oldroyd is passionate about his subject and is able to transfer that passion to the reader. That makes the entire learning process a pleasurable experiance. The reader will look forward to every chapter and will no doubt be ready to compose his own fugue based on knowlege obtained from this book.
Fantasia (60th Anniversary Special Edition) (1942) Starring: Leopold Stokowski
Groundbreaking on several counts, not the least of which was an innovative use of
animation and stereophonic sound, this ambitious Disney feature has lost nothing to time
since its release in 1940. Classical music was interpreted by Disney animators, resulting
in surreal fantasy and playful escapism. Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia
Orchestra provided the music for eight segments by the composers Tchaikovsky,
Moussorgsky, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Ponchielli, Bach, Dukas, and Schubert. Not all
the sequences were created equally, but a few are simply glorious, such as "Night on
Bald Mountain," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," and "The Nutcracker Suite." The
animation ranges from subtly delicate to fiercely bold. The screen bursts with color and
action as creatures transmute and convention is thrust aside. The painstaking detail and
saturated hues are unique to this film, unmatched even by more advanced technology.
Bach - Greatest Organ Works, Vol. 1
Glorious. Splendid. Awe-inspiring. How else to describe the experience of hearing J.S. Bach's greatest organ music, played by a virtuoso on an instrument that's nearly 300
years old and then delivered via state-of-the-art digital audio? Playing the Trost Organ in Waltershausen, Germany, Hans-AndrČ Stamm makes his way through nine different
pieces, from thunderous fugues (including the familiar Toccata and Fugue in D Minor) to stately hymns and delicate pastorales. The 80-minute program is impressive, as are
the bonus DVD features that accompany it. Among the latter are a bio of the organist; a timeline tracing political, cultural, and biographical events in Bach's world during the
early 18th century; "Thuringia Impression," an extra musical selection set to filmed scenes of the green, rolling, German countryside; and an extensive "liner notes" section with
notes on the compositions, a description of the organ (it has 2,806 pipes and was reputedly played by Bach himself), and display options for viewing titles, harmonic analysis of the music, or details of the organ's many stops and registrations (i.e., levers and knobs used to achieve its wondrous sounds).
Sleepy Hollow (1999) Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci. The films of Tim Burton shine through the muck like a jack-o-lantern on a foggy October night. After such successes as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward
Scissorhands, it should come as no surprise that Sleepy Hollow is a dazzling film, a delicious reworking of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Dark and
moody, the film is a thrilling ride back to the turn of the 19th century. Johnny Depp stars as Ichabod Crane, a seemingly hapless constable from New York City who is sent
to the small town of Sleepy Hollow to solve the mystery of the decapitations that are plaguing the town. Crane is a bumbling sort, with a tremendous faith in science over
mysticism, and he comes up against town secrets, bewitching women, and a number of bodies missing heads. Christina Ricci, as beautiful as ever, is Katrina Van Tassel, the
offbeat love interest who alternately charms and frightens Crane.
The film, while occasionally gory (as one should expect from a movie about a headless horseman), is not terribly frightening, although it is suspenseful. Both Depp and Ricci
are convincing, and the art direction and production values give the village its harsh feel. Toward the end, once the secrets are revealed, the film does slow down; however,
this stylistic horror film provides many tricks and even more treats.
Bach - Stokowski
On this CD:
1. Passacaglia and Fugue for organ in C minor, BWV 582
2. Komm, s¸sser Tod, for voice & continuo (Schemelli Gesangbuch No. 868), BWV 478
3. English Suite for keyboard No. 2 in A minor, BWV 807 BourrČe, arr for orchestra
4. Partita for solo violin No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 Sarabande, arr for orchestra
5. Cantata No. 80, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," BWV 80 Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott, arr for orchestra
6. Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 Shepherd's Song, arr for orchestra
7. Fugue for organ in G minor ("Little"), BWV 578
8. Suite for orchestra No 3 in D major, BWV 1068 Air on the G string, arr for orchestra
9. Mein Jesu! was f¸r Seelenweh, for voice & continuo (Schemelli Gesangbuch No. 283) BWV 487
10. Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006 Preludio, arr for orchestra
11. Toccata and Fugue for organ in D minor, BWV 565
Conducted by Leopold Stokowski
Bach: Great Organ Works Performer: Peter Hurford
On this CD:
1. Toccata and Fugue for organ in D minor, BWV 565
2. Chorale prelude for organ ("Herzlich tut mich verlangen"), BWV 727
3. Chorale prelude for organ ("Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme"), (Sch¸bler No. 1), BWV 645
4. Fantasia and Fugue for organ in G minor ("Great"), BWV 542
5. Chorale prelude for organ ("Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier"), BWV 730
6. Passacaglia and Fugue for organ in C minor, BWV 582
7. Prelude and Fugue for organ in E flat major ("St Anne"), BWV 552
8. Chorale prelude for organ ("Nun komm der Heiden Heiland"), BWV 659
9. Fantasia and Fugue for organ in C minor, BWV 537
10. Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue for organ in C major, BWV 564
11. Chorale prelude for organ ("In dulci jubilo"), BWV 729
12. Prelude and Fugue for organ in A minor, BWV 543
13. Fantasia for organ in G major, BWV 572
14. Prelude and Fugue for organ in D major ("Little"), BWV 532
15. Chorale prelude for organ ("Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein"), (doubtful), BWV 734
16. Chorale prelude for organ ("Wo soll ich fliehen hin"), BWV 694
17. Fantasia and Fugue for organ in C minor, BWV 562
18. Toccata and Fugue for organ in D minor ("Dorian"), BWV 538