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Jsb Prelude And/or Fugue


Andy
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With apologies if this has been covered in a previous thread, I was wondering what the panel's views are on performing preludes without fugues or fugues without preludes.

I used to have a teacher who was rather sniffy about this but when I was finally prised away from Novello and towards Barenreiter I was surprised to find that Bach did not designate any of his P&Fs 'Great'. Not only that but a few years later I discovered that, although JSB paired some of these works. many have been coupled since.

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It depends. If you are talking about a recital, then the choice is yours, depending on whether or not you can defend your choice on musical or historical grounds. If you are talking about a voluntary, it would depend on the piece. Some are rather long, and you could finish up playing to an empty church, with the verger / warden / vicar jangling his keys, waiting to go home! That's my (amateur) opinion, anyway. The professionals may not agree.

 

Regards to all

 

John

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Depends on the piece, but most of the time with JSB they are two seperate pieces. They very rarely share thematic or musical ideas (unlike say, Buxtehude where many p+f are linked musically)

 

How many times have you heard, for example, somebody ONLY play the Toccata in F Major (BWV 540) - Despite knowing this work intimately, i couldn't tell you much about the fugue.

 

On the other hand they are categorised as one work, so you could argue Bach intends them together.

 

As with much music of this period, we can't ask them, and their ideas wern't explicity written down, so do what you think is right

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Thanks both. I suspect that I may do most of my playing to an empty church. The organ is half way up the chancel wall and the top of the screen blocks my view of the church to such an extent that I can only see half a dozen rows of seats on one side of the aisle. It does mean that I don't get overwhelmed by the volume of the congregation chatting/shouting to each other as soon as they hear the first notes of the voluntary.

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Guest Cynic
Thanks both. I suspect that I may do most of my playing to an empty church. The organ is half way up the chancel wall and the top of the screen blocks my view of the church to such an extent that I can only see half a dozen rows of seats on one side of the aisle. It does mean that I don't get overwhelmed by the volume of the congregation chatting/shouting to each other as soon as they hear my first chord.

 

 

Historically, the idea of playing a Prelude and Fugue (invariably) together is a fairly recent development.

 

You should have no qualms at all. Indeed, in a situation where to play both a Prelude and Fugue may overbalance a recital programme, making it a little more rather severe or 'academic' than would be ideal for all listeners, to have one or the other does mean that some of the finest works ever written for our instrument can still be enjoyed. Go for it!

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In a Liturgical context I would be content to use a P & F to frame the service, i.e., on Trinity Sunday, Prelude in Eb before and 'St Anne' Fugue after, in the same way that these pieces frame the Clavierubung.

Doubtless there are many other pairings that could be used this way. The Great B minor BWV544 springs to mind.

 

H

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I have been very pleased to read this thread, as I had been feeling rather guilty at programming the g minor fantasia by itself as the opening of a forthcoming recital. Time is limited, and the whole fantasia and fugue would just be too much Bach in the allotted 30 minutes. Cynic's views have buoyed me considerably.

 

I expressed this view to one of my teachers, who pointed out that the fantasia and fugue were never, originally conjoined ; I understand that the fugue originally existed in f minor, which only reinforces the point.

 

M

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I expressed this view to one of my teachers, who pointed out that the fantasia and fugue [in G minor] were never, originally conjoined ; I understand that the fugue originally existed in f minor, which only reinforces the point.

 

M

 

Having just speed-read Peter Williams's commentary on BWV 542, it seems arguable that the fugue originally existed in F minor. That copies of it in F minor do exist is beyond doubt though, and as there is no copy of the Fantasia in that key as well, one could well conclude that the two were not conceived by JSB as an entity.

 

To answer the original poster then, on the evidence available, you cannot be accused of committing a musical faux pas by playing some of the preludes (or fantasias; or toccatas) and fugues separately.

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I have been very pleased to read this thread, as I had been feeling rather guilty at programming the g minor fantasia by itself as the opening of a forthcoming recital. Time is limited, and the whole fantasia and fugue would just be too much Bach in the allotted 30 minutes. Cynic's views have buoyed me considerably.

 

I expressed this view to one of my teachers, who pointed out that the fantasia and fugue were never, originally conjoined ; I understand that the fugue originally existed in f minor, which only reinforces the point.

Confession time: about 25 years ago I was asked by a friend from university to play the organ for her wedding. She was a musician and had chosen the music with great care. Another friend sang the tenor solo from Rejoice In The Lamb. She asked me to play the Gm Fantasia & Fugue and I agreed, despite never having studied them. However, as the date loomed nearer I realised that, whilst I could play the Fantasia pretty well, I was not going to have the necessary time to prepare the fugue. Rather than cop out altogether I remembered there was another, solitary, Bach organ fugue in Gm which I had learned before; it begins, unusually for a fugue, with a full chord. Even though the detached console was at the front of the chapel I didn't dare look at the bride's face as I started the unexpected fugue. I'd told myself at the time and ever since, that Bach hadn't specified which pieces "went" together but had never believed it until this thread. Thanks, guys, my heart is lighter now.

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  • 2 weeks later...

In a liturgical situation, more especially as a final voluntary, it is often much more sensible to play only one movement anyway, unless you are lucky enough to have a congregation who sit and listen beyond the choir and clergy leaving.

 

Jonathan :rolleyes:

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You can play whatever you like, although some JSB works seem to demand the fugue, for example the Fantasia (of BWV 537) which ends on the dominant.
Of course you can still play this alone - and also the slow movement of the C major trio sonata - so long as you end at the final tonic cadence immediately before the link that modulates to the dominant. I'm not suggesting that Bach would have approved, but it's infinitely more musical than the ClassicFM trick of leaving the piece hanging in mid air with nothing to follow.
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Guest Barry Williams
In a liturgical situation, more especially as a final voluntary, it is often much more sensible to play only one movement anyway, unless you are lucky enough to have a congregation who sit and listen beyond the choir and clergy leaving.

 

Jonathan :rolleyes:

 

 

I have played once or twice for the Christian Science Church and found the congregation unusually attentive to the organ music, both before and after the service. They listen with uncommon and refreshing interest to the musical offerings.

 

Barry Williams

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