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Bach Bwv 579


Peter Clark
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Although seemingly straighforward, this comparatively short fugue is packed with delightful things, not least the wonderful stretto near the end. My problem, ladies and gentlemen, is how many, if at all, registration changes should be made, and where. The semiquaver passage at the end of page 1 (I use Novello for this) seems to require something a little lighter than the opening. But I am concerned as to the "authenticity" of this. In the passage that follows, a "duet" between LH and pedals, should the registration be as at first, leading to the wonderful re-introduction of the opening subject in the RH? That's just for starters. Any thoughts on this would be welcome. (I first learnt it on a 2-manual Walker extension but now I have something a little bigger to play with I don't want to register just for the sake of it - I think it sounds quite effective played staight through on the same registration.)

 

Toodle-pip

 

 

Peter

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This is one of my favourite fugues. There is nothing showy about it; the interest is all in the interplay between the voices. I would liken it to a convivial chat round a pub table. Even more than in JSB's looser fugues, I feel the "discussion" between the parts does not need or want to be interrupted by changes of tone colour. I would try to find a fairly light, crisp, flute-based registration of, say, 8 + 4 + 2 - it shouldn't be difficult on your organ! With the right sound the changes of texture will provide all the variety necessary. Personally I don't feel a pleno registration does this piece any favours (though on some organs it may be preferable to the alternatives.) Being fussy with the tone colours risks making the piece sound larger than life and it simply doesn't need that. All IMHO of course.

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This is one of my favourite fugues. There is nothing showy about it; the interest is all in the interplay between the voices. I would liken it to a convivial chat round a pub table. Even more than in JSB's looser fugues, I feel the "discussion" between the parts does not need or want to be interrupted by changes of tone colour. I would try to find a fairly light, crisp, flute-based registration of, say, 8 + 4 + 2 - it shouldn't be difficult on your organ! With the right sound the changes of texture will provide all the variety necessary. Personally I don't feel a pleno registration does this piece any favours (though on some organs it may be preferable to the alternatives.) Being fussy with the tone colours risks making the piece sound larger than life and it simply doesn't need that. All IMHO of course.

 

I'd totally agree with this, I tend to go for 8 + 4 flutes or 8 + 2 if the 4 is too 'thick'.

P.

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Sorry and all, but to (save me looking all this up) which Fugue are we talking about? Just that I don't carry numbers in my head - I play them all and would love to take part in this discussion. Call me lazy or useless if you like.

 

I tend to identify fugues by key and (mostly) nickname e.g. big B minor, short C major etc. etc. Not ever having been a finalist on Brain of Britain or similar....

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Sorry and all, but to (save me looking all this up) which Fugue are we talking about? Just that I don't carry numbers in my head - I play them all and would love to take part in this discussion. Call me lazy or useless if you like.

 

I tend to identify fugues by key and (mostly) nickname e.g. big B minor, short C major etc. etc. Not ever having been a finalist on Brain of Britain or similar....

 

http://www.bh2000.net/score/orgbach/organ10.pdf

 

I agree with Vox and Paul's suggestions too!

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Although seemingly straighforward, this comparatively short fugue is packed with delightful things, not least the wonderful stretto near the end. My problem, ladies and gentlemen, is how many, if at all, registration changes should be made, and where. The semiquaver passage at the end of page 1 (I use Novello for this) seems to require something a little lighter than the opening. But I am concerned as to the "authenticity" of this. In the passage that follows, a "duet" between LH and pedals, should the registration be as at first, leading to the wonderful re-introduction of the opening subject in the RH? That's just for starters. Any thoughts on this would be welcome. (I first learnt it on a 2-manual Walker extension but now I have something a little bigger to lay with I don't want to register just for the sake of it - I think it sounds quite effective played staight through on the same registration.)

 

Toodle-pip

 

 

Peter

 

This is gorgeous isn't it - I have a weakness for Italian Bach myself... I've heard it played in a variety of ways, but imho it sounds fab on a singing 8' principal - particularly in unequal temperament!

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Sorry and all, but to (save me looking all this up) which Fugue are we talking about? Just that I don't carry numbers in my head - I play them all and would love to take part in this discussion. Call me lazy or useless if you like.

 

I tend to identify fugues by key and (mostly) nickname e.g. big B minor, short C major etc. etc. Not ever having been a finalist on Brain of Britain or similar....

 

Bm on a theme of Corelli - but I had to google!

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Please notice, that the theme of this lovely fugue is the beginning of the chorale "Herzlich tut mich verlangen" or "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" (Passion Chorale, "O sacred head"). Reduce the theme to half notes, take away the ornaments and you see it. So I play it at passiontide, with a nice 8' or 8' + 4' registration without a change.

 

Cheers

tiratutti

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Thanks everybody. This means a radical rethink from my youthful performances when I seemed to change manual and registration every other semiquaver :lol:! The idea of keeping the same reg throughout attracts me (and makes life easier) though would a small mixture (or even a large) be out of place? My current thinking is:

 

 

Gt

 

Princ. 8

Octave 4

Octave 2

Mixture IV

 

 

Ped

 

Princ. 16 coupled to Sw 16 Basson

 

But maybe less is more....

 

 

Thanks again

 

Peter

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Please notice, that the theme of this lovely fugue is the beginning of the chorale "Herzlich tut mich verlangen" or "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" (Passion Chorale, "O sacred head"). Reduce the theme to half notes, take away the ornaments and you see it. So I play it at passiontide, with a nice 8' or 8' + 4' registration without a change.

 

Cheers

tiratutti

 

Oh no, it isn't!

 

Since it's from a "springy" Vivace movement from a Sonata it is (in my opinion, of course!) totally unsuited in mood to Passiontide. There are plenty of pieces based on the Passion Chorale so we don't have to slow this fugue down (presumably?) and devitalize it in order to pretend it is somehow connected. I know Peter Williams says it needs to go slower than the Corelli piece, but not there are limits.

 

I use a light principal chorus throughout. I used to change manuals but I don't now: the episodes are so short I don't think it helps the piece at all.

 

It's one of the few Bach pieces that I know I can get right even if I haven't played it for a while!

 

Stephen Barber

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Thanks everybody. This means a radical rethink from my youthful performances when I seemed to change manual and registration every other semiquaver :lol: ! The idea of keeping the same reg throughout attracts me (and makes life easier) though would a small mixture (or even a large) be out of place? My current thinking is:

 

 

Gt

 

Princ. 8

Octave 4

Octave 2

Mixture IV

 

 

Ped

 

Princ. 16 coupled to Sw 16 Basson

 

But maybe less is more....

 

 

Thanks again

 

Peter

Really can't tell without hearing the stops in question! :)

 

Seriously, there is no reason why the piece can't be played "in yer face" on a pleno registration, but for that sort of registration you have all the big preludes and fugues and personally I think it's nice to have a bit of variety sometimes.

 

My feeling is that there is such a lot going on in this piece, with material being passed around the various voices, that you really do need to be able to hear the detail. Mixtures run the risk of obscuring this. A crystal-clear, non-strident registration will help focus the listeners' attention on this detail, whereas a pleno registration may possibly draw the attention a little more towards the general sound and effect of the organ. Neither approach is necessarily wrong, just different. It all depends on whether you want to go for a big rhetorical statement or the convivial, intelligent chat I mentioned earlier.

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Really can't tell without hearing the stops in question! :lol:

 

Seriously, there is no reason why the piece can't be played "in yer face" on a pleno registration, but for that sort of registration you have all the big preludes and fugues and personally I think it's nice to have a bit of variety sometimes.

 

My feeling is that there is such a lot going on in this piece, with material being passed around the various voices, that you really do need to be able to hear the detail. Mixtures run the risk of obscuring this. A crystal-clear, non-strident registration will help focus the listeners' attention on this detail, whereas a pleno registration may possibly draw the attention a little more towards the general sound and effect of the organ. Neither approach is necessarily wrong, just different. It all depends on whether you want to go for a big rhetorical statement or the convivial, intelligent chat I mentioned earlier.

 

 

Several good suggestions above. To me, this one sounds very vocal, and a registration that is not strident and singing would surely serve it best.

I feel the same about the E minor Prelude, the one that preceeds The Wedge fugue.

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My feeling is that there is such a lot going on in this piece, with material being passed around the various voices, that you really do need to be able to hear the detail.

 

I wonder if there's a mature Bach fugue where this isn't the case!

 

I do feel that a pleno suits the piece better - whereas I prefer the "little" G minor ( and the A major etc.) on something lighter.

 

Stephen Barber

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

So interesting to read all these posts and on such a gem of a work. Although it features sometimes as an early work for students to play, it should never be discarded as the sheer beauty of enjoyment of the voices makes such happy company - certainly like that convivial chat that somebody mentioned. However, from a registrational point of view I have always urged students to find a rich broad sound that is founded upon a string-like Basso for the pedals. The hard part is to find that pedal department that speaks as promptly as the keyboards as the moments when they must play the repeated quaver entries together, a most disturbing feeling of non-co-ordination can let the piece down. As it was String-based originally I do suggest that the player makes the organ sound not like an organ but an instrumental ensemble with yourself as the Director. Give the illusion of bowing articulation to differentiate in the most musical of ways the up-bows and the down-bows (weak/strong) attitudes of the subjects/counter-subjects. As for speed, something broad to go with the 8ft sound of the keyboards and the 16ft of the Pedal line. Clarity and precision!

Shhhhhh! On some instruments I have used the most seductive of Tremblants too - and that changes the perception of the piece as well. When you meet a good Tremblant, you want to wrap it up and take it away with you as happened in my village in France - Saint-Antoine l'Abbaye when it was undone and whisked away. I have recorded the A minor fugue of Handel using it with all the 8ft foundations with Tremblant. To me this was a musical reading and a transported moment, the equivalent of Bernini's statue - The Ecstasy of St Teresa. I make not one apology!

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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"The semiquaver passage at the end of page 1 (I use Novello for this) seems to require something a little lighter than the opening. But I am concerned as to the "authenticity" of this. In the passage that follows, a "duet" between LH and pedals, should the registration be as at first, leading to the wonderful re-introduction of the opening subject in the RH?"

 

I think its difficult to make a link between registration and texture (this is sometimes used as justification for registration changes in the Passacaglia). Not that its a 'new' idea as such, Mendelssohn is supposed to have played Bach fugues with contrasted central sections in England in the late 1830s.

 

BWV 579 - I like 'HarmonicsV's suggestion, 8' principal begin to end. Why? Probably because I can make an instinctive link between the registration and the affekt of the piece. On the other hand, its difficult to establish source-based links between registration and affekt, so this is also subjective. Principal stops are also more closely associated with string writing than flutes (think of the opening of the Bach d minor concerto, or more indirectly, the trio indications of Kauffmann in the Harmonische Seelenlust).

 

I have my first trip to play in St Antoine planned in for the autumn, wondering what to play - can Nigel tell us (or me at least) about the limitations of the temperament?

 

Thanks and greetings

 

Bazuin

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
I have my first trip to play in St Antoine planned in for the autumn, wondering what to play - can Nigel tell us (or me at least) about the limitations of the temperament?

 

Thanks and greetings

 

Bazuin

 

As a minor digression from Bach/Corelli I would be tempted to say that the benefits of a strong temperament founded on one around 1512 and adapted by Rameau provides more positive enhancements than negative limitations. The normal Minor keys are greatly coloured although C minor is out of the question - the Neopolitan at the end of the Passacaglia Fuga is musically very like Tosca's dagger finding Scarpia's spleen.

F minor too is somewhat strained because of Chords III and VI. (Somebody transposed the Pasacaglia into D minor because they so wanted to play it!) All French music of the same age is a sensation and don't forget that the C# at the bottom on the pedals alone provides a Contra A (32ft) on all the 3 reeds for those great Premier Ton perfect cadences. The toe just slips from the note to D. Perfection.

Normal Major keys sparkle and glitter with C G and F being the best. D too.

Find some works that incorporate the Echo. Enjoy not only an Echo Cornet V, but also an Echo Plein jeu and an Echo Cromorne (which is of identical scaling to that of the Positive). And you must have a grand Basse de Trompette using (correctly) both G-O Trompettes of 8 plus the Clairon 4. Sit back and make music like King Arthur's Excalibur.

In a nut-shell, you will have the time of your life if you play the right music for which it was conceived - French Baroque. But having said that, the English music of the same age works an absolute treat too. And furthermore, as Scherer in 1748 brought some middle European influences down from Lausanne (like the Germanic Pedal board) some Bach (which the French cheer to the vaulting) and Buxtehude work as well. Muffat too. Just all dandy.

N

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When you meet a good Tremblant, you want to wrap it up and take it away with you as happened in my village in France - Saint-Antoine l'Abbaye when it was undone and whisked away.

 

Before this topic continues any further, we must address this serious matter of Nigel's theft of a Tremulant from St Antoine. This simply will not do and must be put right at once.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Before this topic continues any further, we must address this serious matter of Nigel's theft of a Tremulant from St Antoine. This simply will not do and must be put right at once.

 

I had almost finished building a guillotine when all was restored to its sensuous and sumptuous self after an absence of around 9 months the other year. N

 

PS David, you infer that I made the theft!

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I had almost finished building a guillotine when all was restored to its sensuous and sumptuous self after an absence of around 9 months the other year. N

 

PS David, you infer that I made the theft!

 

That's incredible! You know you're dealing with a cultured society when Tremblants get stolen from remote villages with probably 3 E-types and a TVR parked untouched in the square.

 

I inferred from your text that you had 'borrowed' it for some nefarious purpose or other. I stand corrected.

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In a nut-shell, you will have the time of your life if you play the right music for which it was conceived - French Baroque. But having said that, the English music of the same age works an absolute treat too. And furthermore, as Scherer in 1748 brought some middle European influences down from Lausanne (like the Germanic Pedal board) some Bach (which the French cheer to the vaulting) and Buxtehude work as well. Muffat too. Just all dandy.

N

 

I'll second that - when I played there a couple of years back, I originally planned a Mendelssohn sonata, but Jean-Paul Ravel (one of the titulaires, I believe?) got in touch to advise that the temperament wouldn't really suit it. I was tempted to mention the experiment done by my friend Sandy MacKenzie, with a re-tempered organ playing a whole range of music from Couperin to Messiaen in unequal temperament (captured on CD and available together with his book about temperaments) but I accepted what I was told and swapped Mendelssohn for Stanley, Reading and John James of London. With Bohm to begin and Buxtehude to finish, it was a treat! Next time I'm there, I'll take some Clerambault or de Grigny...

 

It is a truly wonderful instrument in equally wonderful surroundings, and as Nigel has hinted many times, it brings the music of its period to life like few other instruments.

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