The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Did Bach write his most famous piece?

I'm not much of a classical music fan, but this is pretty interesting:

Williams' argument stems from stacking up many small odd points about the piece. There's the name -- Bach's generation would have called it "Praeludium et fuga," not Toccata and Fugue -- and a progression of notes Bach never would have allowed.

"Bach's greatest inspiration is invariably revealed through his complete mastery of the 'rules,' " writes Bruce Fox-LeFriche, who raised the Toccata subject again last year in Strings magazine.

The evidence of rule-breaking includes doubling at the octave and the curious minor cadence that ends the Toccata, both not heard elsewhere in Bach's organ output (usually even a work in a minor key concludes with a major chord). The Toccata also brims with harmony and counterpoint bordering on simplistic for the masterful composer.

"No other Bach fugue contains such feeble part-writing," writes Fox-LeFriche, citing the "complete absence of contrasting rhythm, contrary motion or a least a few notes that don't slavishly follow the subject."

In short, the Toccata and Fugue approaches nothing Bach ever wrote for the organ, or ever wrote at all.

You definitely know the tune, and you can listen to it here.

(Hat tip, Marginal Revolution)


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