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Bach's Toccata In D Minor, Bwv 565


Colin Harvey
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We all know that this piece probably wasn't written for the organ, or in the key of D minor, or by J.S.Bach. Present wisdom seems to be of the opinion it was written for the violin.

 

Does anybody know of any attempts at a reconstruction of the original piece or any recording of the piece on Violin? I know of Vanessa Mae's recording but I wondered whether there were any others.

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Radio 3 (or 4) did a programme about this recently with Peter Williams and Christian Woolf - Williams said no, but Woolf came down on the side of Bach's authorship. There was a violinist on the programme who played snatches here and there by way of illustration but I do not know if he recorded it. Gillian Weir seemed unconcerned either way saying just that it was a "terrific piece of music". The programme was produced by a friend of mine who works at the BBC in Cardiff. It's probably too late for the "listen again" but a transcript may be available.

 

Peter

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When Radio 3 did their Bachfest in Dec 2005 they kicked the whole thing off with Wayne Marshall playing the organ version followed by some violinist - eastern European, I think - playing his own arrangement. Or, more accurately, trying to. It was one of the most dreadful performances I've ever heard on Radio 3.

 

As I recall the violin theory was suggested by little more than the figuration in those pointless, note-spinning "echo" passages. An alternative theory, which strikes me as being potentially more convincing is that the original instrument was a violoncello piccolo.

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Hello all,

 

The violinist was Andrew Manze, long one of my favourites for Baroque stuff. His recording of the Bach Double Violin Concerto (with Rachel Podger) has to be heard to be believed.

 

I've got his recording of bwv565 on an old Harmonia Mundi sampler CD. I think this is the original release for purchase on Amazon UK:

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bach-Violin-Sonata...5027&sr=8-1

 

Amazon USA usually has better audio previews (the Windows Media ones):

 

http://www.amazon.com/Bach-Sonatas-Jaap-te...5264&sr=8-1

 

It's a very different piece from the one we know and love! As it happened I listened to my recording of the Radio 4 programme last night (PVRs really are wonderful inventions!) I think it was called 'Who wrote Bach's Toccata?'.

 

regards

 

SC

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We all know that this piece probably wasn't written for the organ, or in the key of D minor, or by J.S.Bach. Present wisdom seems to be of the opinion it was written for the violin ...

Does anybody know of any attempts at a reconstruction of the original piece ... ?.

... and Vox humana added:

As I recall the violin theory was suggested by little more than the figuration in those pointless, note-spinning "echo" passages. An alternative theory, which strikes me as being potentially more convincing is that the original instrument was a violoncello piccolo.

VH is right inasmuch there in fact is no violin theory. There is NO evidence whatsoever that the piece was meant for any other instrument but the organ. Dame Gillian is d**n right, it really is terrific organ music, and the sources do not warrant anything else. Anything. Where there is no argument, there is no theory.

 

BWV 565 was transcribed for oh so many instruments, piano, xylophone, accordion, pan flute, you name it. Now violinsts have joined the lot. Why they need to conjure up some pseudo-philological accompanimental idea -- beats me. If they want a combination of Bach, stylus phantasticus, and violin, they may turn to the sonata BWV 1023 (1st movement), which is closer to Biber than to what's going on in BWV 565.

 

Not quite as widespread as (non-)theories on BWV 565, at least among violinists, is the fact that there was a vast repertoire (and much more improvisation) of concerto-style music for organ and keyboard instruments in general; Walther and Bach only were the top of the iceberg. And there was a certain figuration that was called "imitazione violinistica". This figuration is used in BWV in extenso -- not only in the toccata, but also in the fugue. And everyone agrees that the fugue can't have been part of any kind of violin orginal, if there ever was one.

 

Sorry if I sound a bit annoyed. But this is a kind of rumor-based science some Early-Music folks like to ornate their recitals or CD booklets with. There was another rumor that the 'cello suites were really composed by Anna Magdalena. Heck yes, there is a copy in her handwriting. But there are other copies by her that show so many mistakes that it would have taken some otherworldly inspiration for her to write anything as intense as the 'cello suites.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Well, yes, but I think maybe you're being just a little harsh there, Friedrich. I don't disagree with you, but it's worth remembering that we have an organist to blame for the violin theory - none other than Prof. Peter Williams. It was all set out in an article in Early Music many years ago; I must go and read it again. I get the impression that Prof Williams enjoys being a bit of an enfant terrible, getting people to think by rattling their cages and being controversial. But his writings are very clear-headed so I'm sure he would be the first one to remind us that the whole thing is just speculation.

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VH is right inasmuch there in fact is no violin theory. There is NO evidence whatsoever that the piece was meant for any other instrument but the organ. Dame Gillian is d**n right, it really is terrific organ music, and the sources do not warrant anything else. Anything. Where there is no argument, there is no theory.

 

BWV 565 was transcribed for oh so many instruments, piano, xylophone, accordion, pan flute, you name it. Now violinsts have joined the lot. Why they need to conjure up some pseudo-philological accompanimental idea -- beats me. If they want a combination of Bach, stylus phantasticus, and violin, they may turn to the sonata BWV 1023 (1st movement), which is closer to Biber than to what's going on in BWV 565.

 

Not quite as widespread as (non-)theories on BWV 565, at least among violinists, is the fact that there was a vast repertoire (and much more improvisation) of concerto-style music for organ and keyboard instruments in general; Walther and Bach only were the top of the iceberg. And there was a certain figuration that was called "imitazione violinistica". This figuration is used in BWV in extenso -- not only in the toccata, but also in the fugue. And everyone agrees that the fugue can't have been part of any kind of violin orginal, if there ever was one.

 

Sorry if I sound a bit annoyed. But this is a kind of rumor-based science some Early-Music folks like to ornate their recitals or CD booklets with. There was another rumor that the 'cello suites were really composed by Anna Magdalena. Heck yes, there is a copy in her handwriting. But there are other copies by her that show so many mistakes that it would have taken some otherworldly inspiration for her to write anything as intense as the 'cello suites.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

=============================

 

 

I've learned something here....thank you Friederich.

 

I think one of the most pertinent comments I ever heard about BWV565 was one scholar, during a radio discussion, who said something like:-

 

"Well, we can look at the evidence of the figuartion, and we can make up theories, but the biggest question is this: If Bach didn't write it, who else could possibly have done so?"

 

When you ask THAT question, there really isn't much doubt, is there?

 

MM

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"Well, we can look at the evidence of the figuartion, and we can make up theories, but the biggest question is this: If Bach didn't write it, who else could possibly have done so?"

 

When you ask THAT question, there really isn't much doubt, is there?

Come again? Are you suggesting that if Bach didn't write then Bach must have written it? :lol: At the risk of stating the obvious, if Bach didn't write then we don't know who wrote it, do we?

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If Bach didn't write it, who else could possibly have done so?"
The temptation with a question like this is to make a judgement based on limited knowledge - the "I've got a reasonable selection of scores and recordings of Baroque music; Bach's pieces are the ones that sound most like BWV 565, so it must be by him" argument. To begin to attempt an answer one would need an encyclopedic knowledge of at least the organ repertoire, both published and unpublished, from the later Baroque through to early Romanticism. I certainly don't have that knowledge and I would be surprised if anyone else on this forum has either. Williams suggested that both J. L. Krebs and J. C. Kittel would have been perfectly capable of writing the violin version - they both played the instrument. Personally I can't see much similarity with Krebs's organ music; I know too little Kittel.

 

David Humphreys made a suggestion which, from my position of limited knowledge, I find quite persuasive. He pointed out that the earliest extant copy (which the NBA editors concluded was copied from an autograph - don't ask me how) was made by Johannes Ringk (1717-1778). Ringk was a pupil of J. P. Kellner, who in turn had been a pupil of the old Bach. BWV 565 was clearly not a piece that enjoyed a wide circulation: there are only three other sources, all (I think) nineteenth-century. So it would not be unreasonable to look within Ringk's own circle for the archetype. Perhaps he acquired the piece from Kellner. Humphreys cites some parallels with fugues by Kellner in D minor and D major which, while not in any way conclusive, should at least dispel any conviction that no one other than Bach was capable of writing music like BWV 565. If the piece is indeed by Kellner then I suppose the likeliest scenario is that Kellner's manuscript had no ascription and that for some reason Ringk thought that the piece was by his teacher's teacher.

 

There may well be other, even more convincing, arguments elsewhere which I have not seen.

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Come again? Are you suggesting that if Bach didn't write then Bach must have written it? :wacko: At the risk of stating the obvious, if Bach didn't write then we don't know who wrote it, do we?

 

 

And I don't suppose we ever will.

 

Those who read German may be interested in a recent book dealing expressly with the authenticity of BWV 565, by Rolf-Dietrich Claus, entitled Zur Echtheit von Toccata und Fuge d-moll BWV 565 (Verlag Dohr, Köln-Rheinkassel - ISBN 3-925366-37-37).

 

I have prepared an English translation and the author and I hope to find a UK publisher fairly soon.

 

I don't want to give the game away, but Dr Claus's conclusion is that the work is almost certainly much later than hitherto assumed, maybe 1750 or later and that Ringk and Kellner are indeed among the list of suspects. The book does not set out to be a musical who-dunnit and it thus seems unlikely we will ever know the answer.

 

JS

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And I don't suppose we ever will.

 

Those who read German may be interested in a recent book dealing expressly with the authenticity of BWV 565, by Rolf-Dietrich Claus, entitled Zur Echtheit von Toccata und Fuge d-moll BWV 565 (Verlag Dohr, Köln-Rheinkassel - ISBN 3-925366-37-37).

 

I have prepared an English translation and the author and I hope to find a UK publisher fairly soon.

 

I don't want to give the game away, but Dr Claus's conclusion is that the work is almost certainly much later than hitherto assumed, maybe 1750 or later and that Ringk and Kellner are indeed among the list of suspects. The book does not set out to be a musical who-dunnit and it thus seems unlikely we will ever know the answer.

 

JS

Hope you do find one, John. I'll buy a copy.

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Come again? Are you suggesting that if Bach didn't write then Bach must have written it? :wacko: At the risk of stating the obvious, if Bach didn't write then we don't know who wrote it, do we?

 

 

================================

 

 

This is not the stuff of forensic evidence!

 

You misrepresent the question, which was, "IF Bach didn't write it, who else COULD have done?"

 

The only composer I know of, who could compose music which could be mistaken for Bach, was Albinoni.

 

Krebs came close to plagiarism of Bach's F-major Toccata.

 

Whatever the weaknesses of the BWV565, (it is perhaps a triumph of style over content). so dramatic, so assured and so musical is the end result, I just could not think of any other composer who could deliver this sort of composition. I can think of none, and whilst I don't claim a total knowledge of baroque-music, I know quite a lot covering most of the European countries.

 

For sheer dramatic content, perhaps only Buxtehude and Bruhns spring to mind, but their style was very different to BWV565.

 

I feel a bit the same way about the Gigue Fugue, because no other composer seems to fit the bill.

 

Perhaps all I am suggesting, is that in the absence of solid evidence, attributing both these works to Bach is at least as valid as not doing so, and I would therefore question why anyone should seek to create a story which also has a similar lack of proof, as Friederich has pointed out.

 

Instinct can sometimes be a very solid guide, and in another thread, almost without having to think about it, I managed to link Marian Sawa to Jehan Alain; only to discover that others have done the same.

 

So in not being able to prove it one way or the other, perhaps a better way of not knowing, is to simply raise a question mark.

 

Hasn't that always been the case?

 

MM

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The only composer I know of, who could compose music which could be mistaken for Bach, was Albinoni. ... I just could not think of any other composer who could deliver this sort of composition. I can think of none, and whilst I don't claim a total knowledge of baroque-music, I know quite a lot covering most of the European countries.
This is exactly the argument I mentioned previously!

 

Krebs came close to plagiarism of Bach's F-major Toccata.
Yes, and in quite a few other pieces too. And don't forget that some of his pieces have been within the Bach canon in the past.

 

Whatever the weaknesses of the BWV565, (it is perhaps a triumph of style over content). so dramatic, so assured and so musical is the end result,
That's very subjective. Personally I find the toccata effective enough, but the fugue meandering and very unassured. Did Bach write anything else so weak as that pitiful solo pedal entry of the fugue subject? Oh yes, it can be made to sound effective if you throw in the 32' Bombarde and couple down the chamades...

 

So in not being able to prove it one way or the other, perhaps a better way of not knowing, is to simply raise a question mark. Hasn't that always been the case?
Agreed, that is exactly what has been done; but if mankind ceases to seek answers to life's question marks what progress can he make?
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Personally I find the toccata effective enough, but the fugue meandering and very unassured. Did Bach write anything else so weak as that pitiful solo pedal entry of the fugue subject?

 

Well I think he probably did. How about, for example, the pedal in the early c minor fugue where the manuals are given over to repeated chords on alternate hands? Now this may get me into trouble, but I have always found the "big" In Dulci Jubilo to be a little disappointing, as if Bach was merely filling out a hymn tune with flashy bits between each line, which he probably was as that was quite common but this one never seemed to me to go anywhere.

 

And even if the pedal entry you describe as "pitiful" is pitiful, an opinion I doubt shared by many here, it is surely redeemed beyond measure by the wonderful manual eentry in 6ths, the E and G crashing wonderfully into the pedal F?

 

Peter

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Did Bach write anything else so weak as that pitiful solo pedal entry of the fugue subject?

 

 

=====================

 

This is the problem of writing for just one line.

 

There's just no way it can work is there? :wacko:

 

 

MM

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And even if the pedal entry you describe as "pitiful" is pitiful, an opinion I doubt shared by many here, it is surely redeemed beyond measure by the wonderful manual eentry in 6ths, the E and G crashing wonderfully into the pedal F?

 

Peter

 

 

=========================

 

 

I couldn't agree more, but to really appreciate the high-drama (which may be a triumph of effect over compositional orthodoxy), you just have to hear this on the right instrument, where that solo pedal, played with suitable rubato, can mark the start of an absolutely thrilling climax if it isn't rushed. (I tend to tread hard on the brakes at the start of that pedal solo, and make a real meal of the first 'A' with bigger registration. Then I work back up to speed again. I can understand why it is a solo pedal entry, and the last thing I would describe it as is "weak").

 

I also have something of a hobby-horse about those "echoes," which organists always commence ON the beat rather than OFF the beat.

 

If you look at the start of that fugue, it starts off-beat.

 

Delay the echoes by one note, and continue on the same manual until one note longer than normal, and they start to match the harmonic and melodic rythm of the opening fugue subject. (Actually, if you sing the fugue subject at the same time as playing the echoes, you realise that they are closely related).

 

I was delighted to discover that at least one other organist does this; Stephen Cleobury.

 

Of course, if one has to resort to chamades, then you're not controlling the notes properly! (32ft reeds are perfectly acceptable).

 

MM

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Ah! Now you are getting the idea, Vox....

 

:wacko:

I knew you'd bite! ;)

 

 

Now this may get me into trouble, but I have always found the "big" In Dulci Jubilo to be a little disappointing, as if Bach was merely filling out a hymn tune with flashy bits between each line, which he probably was as that was quite common but this one never seemed to me to go anywhere.

I'm glad to learn someone else shares my view about this piece! I wonder when it was written. He wrote one or two other pieces that use similar filling out (a practice also known in England) and I've heard those described as early pieces - though that was from Ivor Keys way back in the 60s before the manifold modern advances in Bach scholarship.

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I knew you'd bite! :wacko:

I'm glad to learn someone else shares my view about this piece! I wonder when it was written. He wrote one or two other pieces that use similar filling out (a practice also known in England) and I've heard those described as early pieces - though that was from Ivor Keys way back in the 60s before the manifold modern advances in Bach scholarship.

 

 

=============================

 

 

I suspect that if a choir were singing the chorale in between the twiddly bits, it could sound very impressive.

 

There were contemporary reports of Bach also modulating wildly during the singing of the chorales; no doubt inspired by equal-temper tuning.

 

The "In dulci jubilo" should really go quite slowly, and with lots of rubato, whatever the notes suggest.

 

I think that they tended to savour the chorales in Germany, and still do.

 

MM

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=========================

I also have something of a hobby-horse about those "echoes," which organists always commence ON the beat rather than OFF the beat.

 

If you look at the start of that fugue, it starts off-beat.

 

Delay the echoes by one note, and continue on the same manual until one note longer than normal, and they start to match the harmonic and melodic rythm of the opening fugue subject. (Actually, if you sing the fugue subject at the same time as playing the echoes, you realise that they are closely related).

 

I was delighted to discover that at least one other organist does this; Stephen Cleobury.

 

MM

 

 

Wayne Marshall does that too - which provided very 'interesting' listening whien he and David Briggs played it as a duet at Gloucester Cathedral as David doesn't do it that way!! They sorted it out for the CD "Two of a Kind" which, with their improvised cadenzas, etc is another very different version of 565 to add to the list.

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Delay the echoes by one note, and continue on the same manual until one note longer than normal

I've always done this. Each group then propels forwards to a main beat instead of tailing off lamely after the beat; gives the whole section more forward momentum.

 

Paul

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I've always done this. Each group then propels forwards to a main beat instead of tailing off lamely after the beat; gives the whole section more forward momentum.

 

Paul

 

 

====================

 

 

Exactly!

 

I played it this morning, just to wake people up in the middle of Lent.

 

MM

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