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Bach's Fantasia In G (piece D'orgue)


Guest Cynic
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In your opinion, should it end fff or ppp?  

27 members have voted

  1. 1. In your opinion, should it end fff or ppp?

    • Please vote:A - Loud ending
      22
    • B - Soft ending
      5


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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

One theory I have heard is that it should start on the Ruckpositiv, central (5-part) section on the Hauptwerk and final section on the Oberwerk. Another is that this composition symbolises The Trinity - though why that theory should oblige a performer to end a majestic work with a couple of pages of hyper-delicate wisps of flute combination is beyond me.

 

Since this system seem to insist on me stating my own position, I love an fff end and am sufficiently convinced of the musical justification for this. I feel sure that the great man (with his well-known penchant for 32' stops and reeds) deliberately piled on the power towards the end - those repeated bottom D's get the whole building rocking.

 

Couple this with Bach's own title - which surely points to the French tradition: notably the Grand Jeu.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

I apologise for the poor way in which I have set this up.

I am a humble, lowly peasant.

 

Not only that, but it should be in the Organ Music part of the site. Sorry!

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Sorry to be a complete heretic, but to me this piece sounds best played with all the stops in. The middle section has a certain Ich weiss nicht was, but otherwise I've never been able to understand what all the fuss is about. Loud or soft? I suppose loud sounds slightly less poncy and slightly less interminable.

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I really don't like the last section being done slowly on tinkly flutes, even if the last line piles it on again. I feel that the cadence at the end of the middle section demands a continuation in the same vein - same pulse (crochet = minim) and same registration.

 

Paul

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Guest Lee Blick
couple of pages of hyper-delicate wisps of flute combination is beyond me.

 

 

This is my take on it, totally wrong probably, but here goes:

 

Tres Vitement: Bright, firm, not too heavy. Should sound confident and triumphant rather than being oppressive. On the other hand it should not sound 'twinkly or fairy-like'.

 

Grave: Organists often thunder into this section. I often think why? It is beautiful, the weaving of all the parts together and I think it is important to hear that without a thickening or stridening of the tone too much. There is an ebb and flow suggesting dynamic changes through the change of pitch as the scales ascend and descend, without the need to make big changes in registration. I really dislike it at the final pedal D bit (last line) when all the stops come out making the last bit with the B in top treble part literally screaming, with a huge thundering chord on the final interrupted cadence, ready to pile into the final section. Surely the nature of the cadence is enough, without a huge magnification of it?

 

Lentement: To me, it is not the amount of volume which is most important here. It is the exciting and daring harmonic framework and the way it descends and finally ascends, 'bubbling' with the pulsating bass, again suggesting a dynamic build up without the need for huge changes of registration. You could play this section as a continuation of the previous one, volume wise. But it is exciting to take it down a notch or two at least for the beginning of this section, to give an element of surprise.

 

Conclusion: This is a virtuosic work, but I also think it is quite an intimate piece where the harmonic structure and pitch ebbs flows through out each section without the need for big registrational development. Subtly here is the key not necessarily big egotisitical climaxes.

 

So should this peice end fff or ppp? It should have a bright ending, with a flourish. without sounding forced. I really don't think it is one of those pieces where it should thunder at the end, there are plenty of other works for that.

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Yes, I prefer to end it loudly. I have an old recording of Helmut Walcha playing it, in which he ends quietly; personally, I find this to be rather an anti-climax.

 

Depending on the instrument and the building, I tend to use echo effects for the first section, then a fairly full registration for the middle section. The final section, if available, I often play it on tutti reeds and cornets with all unison couplers, adding chamades (and, where possible a 32p reed) for the final few bars.

 

Personally, I do not regard it as particularly virtuosic, though. There are one or two figuration-patterns in the final section which need a little sorting-out, otherwise, it is fairly straightforward. Certainly not virtuosic in the sense of, for example, Liszt's Ad nos, or Weinen, Klagen.

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One theory I have heard is that it should start on the Ruckpositiv, central (5-part) section on the Hauptwerk and final section on the Oberwerk. Another is that this composition symbolises The Trinity - though why that theory should oblige a performer to end a majestic work with a couple of pages of hyper-delicate wisps of flute combination is beyond me.

 

Since this system seem to insist on me stating my own position, I love an fff end and am sufficiently convinced of the musical justification for this. I feel sure that the great man (with his well-known penchant for 32' stops and reeds) deliberately piled on the power towards the end - those repeated bottom D's get the whole building rocking.

 

Couple this with Bach's own title - which surely points to the French tradition: notably the Grand Jeu.

In an ideal world, small plenum (sometimes a grand jeu-ish sort of sound if there's a good one available), bigger plenum (16'maybe) for 5 part, smaller plenum for the last section until the last line when the larger plenum returns. I have no evidence that I'm right - just seems to work - but of course it depends on the plena. Switching to flutes seems to undo all the harmonic tension generated by the final bars of the 5pt section, to my ears at least. I can imagine a few 18th instruments having a winding problem with rapid passage work over repeated low pedal notes on a fuller registration in the final section, so I suppose you just have to decide whether or not to take note of those implications on a modern instrument.
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One theory I have heard is that it should start on the Ruckpositiv, central (5-part) section on the Hauptwerk and final section on the Oberwerk. Another is that this composition symbolises The Trinity - though why that theory should oblige a performer to end a majestic work with a couple of pages of hyper-delicate wisps of flute combination is beyond me.

 

Since this system seem to insist on me stating my own position, I love an fff end and am sufficiently convinced of the musical justification for this. I feel sure that the great man (with his well-known penchant for 32' stops and reeds) deliberately piled on the power towards the end - those repeated bottom D's get the whole building rocking.

 

Couple this with Bach's own title - which surely points to the French tradition: notably the Grand Jeu.

Meant to say - we don't know it was Bach's title - no autograph, but a pretty reliable Walther copy (P801). Seems to have circulated in two versions.
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Surely the middle section is more of a Plein jeu?

 

No, I think that Paul is correct - a Grand Jeu is surely closer in spirit to the 'feel' of the texture.

 

I alsi dislike the central section when it is played briskly. I have another recording, of Markus Willinger (Organist of Bamberg Cathedral); he plays the central section quite quickly. Played thus, I find that it loses its grandeur and that the inexorable build-up to the diminished seventh chord is almost thrown away.

 

If such stops are available, does anyone else draw a 32p flue (and reed, if possible), in order to supply the low B?

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No, I think that Paul is correct - a Grand Jeu is surely closer in spirit to the 'feel' of the texture.

 

I alsi dislike the central section when it is played briskly. I have another recording, of Markus Willinger (Organist of Bamberg Cathedral); he plays the central section quite quickly. Played thus, I find that it loses its grandeur and that the inexorable build-up to the diminished seventh chord is almost thrown away.

 

If such stops are available, does anyone else draw a 32p flue (and reed, if possible), in order to supply the low B?

 

I one heard (after evensong on an RSCM course in Bath Abbey - years ago) one organist play the first and middle section then another took over and instead of the last section we got the Toccata bit from Dieu Parmi Nous!!

It sort of worked.

 

:blink:

 

AJJ

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No, I think that Paul is correct - a Grand Jeu is surely closer in spirit to the 'feel' of the texture.

 

I alsi dislike the central section when it is played briskly. I have another recording, of Markus Willinger (Organist of Bamberg Cathedral); he plays the central section quite quickly. Played thus, I find that it loses its grandeur and that the inexorable build-up to the diminished seventh chord is almost thrown away.

 

If such stops are available, does anyone else draw a 32p flue (and reed, if possible), in order to supply the low B?

The middle section is harmonically very reminiscent of French Grand Plein Jeu movements, if the French title is going to influence registration choice - I can't think of a Grand Jeu movement which uses this kind of 'durezza' harmony. And one very reliable source for the piece (Walther's) indicates 'gayement' for the central section..
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No, I think that Paul is correct - a Grand Jeu is surely closer in spirit to the 'feel' of the texture.

 

I alsi dislike the central section when it is played briskly. I have another recording, of Markus Willinger (Organist of Bamberg Cathedral); he plays the central section quite quickly. Played thus, I find that it loses its grandeur and that the inexorable build-up to the diminished seventh chord is almost thrown away.

 

If such stops are available, does anyone else draw a 32p flue (and reed, if possible), in order to supply the low B?

 

Hmm, would use a 32' flue in the middle section anyway - not (just) for the low B. Why did he write it? didn't the french have ravalement only for the reeds?

 

I would use a 'grand plein jeu' for the middle section, because to me it resembles more to plein-jeu pieces than to the GrandJeux parts in for instance the Marchand GrandDialogue.

 

The final candenza always strikes as me a bit disappointing; the notes going up on the low D and then the trill almost an octave lower.

Like someone who speaks more and more agitated and then suddenly gets himself together (like "oh well, why bother ...).

Strange, someone?

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...And one very reliable source for the piece (Walther's) indicates 'gayement' for the central section..

 

Oh yes - I had completely forgotten this!

 

I still prefer it played more grandly, though.

 

I remember a friend telling me that he heard it at a recital in Nôtre-Dame many years ago (from the description of the registration, it is fairly certain that Cochereau was playing). Apparenlty, the opening was quite normal, with a moderate registration then the central section commenced on Tutti Général (including both chamades) - it was, he said, 'bloody exciting!'

 

:blink:

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I first heard this work at the youthful age of 12 on a recording by Richard Seal playing the Willis at Salisbury Cathedral (the Meridian label I think). For good or bad, it set the seal on the way I like the 'piece' to be played. Straightforward opening section played quickly on flutes, central section (measured pace, e.g. like opening of Elgar Sonata in G) beginning with near full organ with pedal reed then scaling down to Great to Mixtures and Swell box shut, then when music starts to go up the scale towards the end of the central section, pedal reed on and swell box gradually opened till you get to full organ on the diminished seventh, and final section fast on full organ, tubas added for the final few bars.

 

The writing is so majestic that players who use twee registrations for anything other than the opening section to me just don't seem to get the point of the work.

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I first heard this work at the youthful age of 12 on a recording by Richard Seal playing the Willis at Salisbury Cathedral (the Meridian label I think). For good or bad, it set the seal on the way I like the 'piece' to be played. Straightforward opening section played quickly on flutes, central section (measured pace, e.g. like opening of Elgar Sonata in G) beginning with near full organ with pedal reed then scaling down to Great to Mixtures and Swell box shut, then when music starts to go up the scale towards the end of the central section, pedal reed on and swell box gradually opened till you get to full organ on the diminished seventh, and final section fast on full organ, tubas added for the final few bars.

 

The writing is so majestic that players who use twee registrations for anything other than the opening section to me just don't seem to get the point of the work.

 

Swell box!!! Isn't this heresy? Please help, confused amateur floundering.

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Swell box!!! Isn't this heresy?  Please help, confused amateur floundering.

 

Well, as well as we *know* something is not historically correct, and

that we do not pretend it *is* the way it *must* be played, why not?

Nothing should be forbidden when you play Bach on a Willis organ.

And should we "really" be 100% correct, we should avoid the "Reform-organs"

as well, which do not possess enough 8' flues...

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Yes, I agree with Pierre - if one is worried about heresy, simply avoid playing Bach on a Romantic organ.

 

However, if one is prepared to experiment in order to get the best results (not in order to allow the music to become subservient to the instrument in question), then surprisingly good results can be obtained.

 

I probably would not have used the tuba stops, though. Then again, on my own instrument I occasionally add the chamades for the last chord, which is the same type of thing.

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One theory I have heard is that it should start on the Ruckpositiv, central (5-part) section on the Hauptwerk and final section on the Oberwerk. Another is that this composition symbolises The Trinity - though why that theory should oblige a performer to end a majestic work with a couple of pages of hyper-delicate wisps of flute combination is beyond me.

 

Since this system seem to insist on me stating my own position, I love an fff end and am sufficiently convinced of the musical justification for this. I feel sure that the great man (with his well-known penchant for 32' stops and reeds) deliberately piled on the power towards the end - those repeated bottom D's get the whole building rocking.

 

Couple this with Bach's own title - which surely points to the French tradition: notably the Grand Jeu.

 

I wonder if anyone has thoughts on the similar problem presented by the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C? Should the fugue end with a resounding pedal bottom C, or reduce to a spry flute combination?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I wonder if anyone has thoughts on the similar problem presented by the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C? Should the fugue end with a resounding pedal bottom C, or reduce to a spry flute combination?

 

 

I have always half suspected that the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue was actually written for the pedal harpsichord. After all, Bach had one. This would also explain the use of top D (51) which didn't exist on any of his organs; it also neatly explains the style of pedal part during the adagio. The chords that end the adagio would then be arpeggiated and gain a lot in excitement and interest.

 

The concluding Fugue is a dance in my book, and can be extremely effective on very few stops - so long as they are bright and quick-speaking.

 

Mind you, don't quote me! No doubt 'out there' is someone who knows the only true, historically correct, official line. This was why I posted a poll about the Fantasia, because I think although latest scholarship insists it should finish soft, I wish to resist this because it makes little musical sense to me.

 

............................................................................

 

You want a further puzzling Bach question? How about the case of several major majestic pieces that finish with extremely short final chords. Do you play right up to the buffers without slowing down and jump off the edge with a true (mathematically and politically correct) quaver - lemming style? Or do you draw it out a little 'in the grand manner' and finish properly? I know which feels right to me.

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I have always half suspected that the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue was actually written for the pedal harpsichord. After all, Bach had one.  This would also explain the use of top D (51) which didn't exist on any of his organs; it also neatly explains the style of pedal part during the adagio.  The chords that end the adagio would then be arpeggiated and gain a lot in excitement and interest.

 

The concluding Fugue is a dance in my book, and can be extremely effective on very few stops - so long as they are bright and quick-speaking.

 

Mind you, don't quote me!  No doubt 'out there' is someone who knows the only true, historically correct, official line.  This was why I posted a poll about the Fantasia, because I think although latest scholarship insists it should finish soft, I wish to resist this because it makes little musical sense to me.

 

............................................................................

 

You want a further puzzling Bach question? How about the case of several major majestic pieces that finish with extremely short final chords.  Do you play right up to the buffers without slowing down and jump off the edge with a true (mathematically and politically correct) quaver - lemming style?  Or do you draw it out a little 'in the grand manner' and finish properly?  I know which feels right to me.

Paul - I think politically correct is a bit loaded. The issue is complicated slightly by the issue of notational conventions and so forth - but the question for me is why in some cases - eg BWV 544i, 547ii - Bach and his copyists should have gone to the considerable trouble of notating a very specific value for the final chord, and rests in each idividual part to complete the bar if the duration of the last chord were of no consequence. If a grandiose ending feels better, fine - but you can't pretend that it's what the notation (as reproduced in a half decent edition, of course) implies. It's not about a correct official line - it's about looking properly at what's in the score, which after all is all there is. Very good article on all this in Peter Williams Vol 3 - "Certain details of performance - finals, fermatas and repeats" - 'the rests [in BWV 544i] have been written in so carefully as to leave the matter quite unambiguous'. Another quote from Williams - 'if the abruptness seems to offend common sense, does it do so because that common sense is an anachronism, or because the notation is implying something else as well - namely that there must be a rallentando?' Your idea of finishing 'properly' might be different from Bach's, but it's his piece after all....

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Paul - I think politically correct is a bit loaded. The issue is complicated slightly by the issue of notational conventions and so forth - but the question for me is why in some cases - eg BWV 544i, 547ii - Bach and his copyists should have gone to the considerable trouble of notating a very specific value for the final chord, and rests in each idividual part to complete the bar if the duration of the last chord were of no consequence.  If a grandiose ending feels better, fine - but you can't pretend that it's what the notation (as reproduced in a half decent edition, of course) implies. It's not about a correct official line - it's about looking properly at what's in the score, which after all is all there is. Very good article on all this in Peter Williams Vol 3 - "Certain details of performance - finals, fermatas and repeats" - 'the rests [in BWV 544i] have been written in so carefully as to leave the matter quite unambiguous'. Another quote from Williams  - 'if the abruptness seems to offend common sense, does it do so because that common sense is an anachronism, or because the notation is implying something else as well - namely that there must be a rallentando?' Your idea of finishing 'properly' might be different from Bach's, but it's his piece after all....

 

Seems to me that these points (esp. the rallentando) are spot on. Doesn't a drawn-out final chord contradict the energy and forward movement (and I don't mean speed) of the works in question anyway?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
It's not about a correct official line - it's about looking properly at what's in the score, which after all is all there is. Very good article on all this in Peter Williams Vol 3 - "Certain details of performance - finals, fermatas and repeats" - 'the rests [in BWV 544i] have been written in so carefully as to leave the matter quite unambiguous'. Another quote from Williams  - 'if the abruptness seems to offend common sense, does it do so because that common sense is an anachronism, or because the notation is implying something else as well - namely that there must be a rallentando?' Your idea of finishing 'properly' might be different from Bach's, but it's his piece after all....

 

 

Not looking for argument, you understand, merely other opinions:

 

I hasten to add that I find no fault with the end of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, just the real exceptions amongst the solo works* that stand out because they are so odd. Oh I'm all for looking at the scores. But..... these moments do seem very odd indeed. It is not a question of anachronisms, I am comparing them with the rest of Bach's extant work.

 

Now, these scores* are unusual because they were (for the most part) meant for his own personal use and not widely disseminated during his lifetime. If Bach really liked the effect of an ending literally as abrupt as these scores suggest, why there is nothing like these last notes in any other of Bach's orchestral or choral works? Or, for that matter, in the keyboard music that Bach actually saw published?

If you know any other instances, please let me know!

 

Sorry if this sounds combative.

 

One possible interpretation is that these rests are there to imply the correct gap between this Prelude (let us say) and a work that is to follow in a certain performance. Other composers have done similar things.

This is but one alternative idea.... there are others.

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Not looking for argument, you understand, merely other opinions:

 

I hasten to add that I find no fault with the end of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, just the real exceptions amongst the solo works* that stand out because they are so odd.  Oh I'm all for looking at the scores.  But..... these moments do seem very odd indeed. It is not a question of anachronisms, I am comparing them with the rest of Bach's extant work.

 

Now, these scores* are unusual because they were (for the most part) meant for his own personal use and not widely disseminated during his lifetime.  If Bach really liked the effect of an ending literally as abrupt as these scores suggest, why there is nothing like these last notes in any other of Bach's orchestral or choral works?  Or, for that matter, in the keyboard music that Bach actually saw published?

If you know any other instances, please let me know! 

 

Sorry if this sounds combative.

 

One possible interpretation is that these rests are there to imply the correct gap between this Prelude (let us say) and a work that is to follow in a certain performance. Other composers have done similar things.

This is but one alternative idea.... there are others.

Interesting point Paul...a cursory look throws up the following examples of relatively short final notes (one tactus worth or shorter) without fermata and with rests precisely notated in non-organ works, in a variety of media; B minor Mass Christe (crotchet), Et in spiritum Sanctum (dotted crotchet); Double violin concerto slow movement - (dotted crotchet) and all three movements of the E major concerto are without fermata and relatively short; several examples in the violin and harpsichord obbligato sonatas; more than one in the Magnificat; several in the Brandenburgs 5 and 3). There are more, although of course the fermata in recaps of da capo arias does double duty. Williams suggests that with the increase in weight of musical sonorities in general over the last couple of centuries, we have lost the art of distinguishing cadence types, and I suspect he's right....as for publications - Schubler chorale BWV 646; Clav'ubung III - BWV 689; BWV 675 has the fermata over the double bar, not the last note; BWV 684; BWV 676. Countless examples in Clav. Part I, II and IV...I don't think BWV 544 is all that isolated an example of this phenomenon.

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The ending I find more difficult than any other is the final quaver of the BWV 547 Fugue in C major (the one with the prelude in 9/8 time). I just cannot get this to make sense as notated - but I'm quite sure the failing is mine, not Bach's.

 

As Stephen suggests, the B minor prelude is not all that unusual. J. L. Krebs also sometimes writes short final notes (mostly in his chorale preludes). By and large they're not as short as Bach's - they're mostly crotchets, though a few pieces end with quavers, notably the prelude from his P&F in F minor, which is clearly modelled on BWV 544. Krebs must have got this habit from his teacher and it is hard to escape the conclusion that the notation is quite deliberate. J. G. Walther also sometimes ends with a crotchet-plus-rests where you might expect a longer note. I can think of a chorale prelude by Gerber, too.

 

Are there any examples of this sort of ending outside Bach's circle?

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