The Many Faces Of Bach’s Toccata And Fugue

At some point about 1740, it is thought that Bach wrote what has become perhaps his most famous work for the organ, the extremely well known Toccata and Fugue in D Minor – well many people think that he wrote it, an equal number it seems are convinced that he did not write it.  Perhaps it was written by Shakespeare?

However that may be, and to be honest, I don’t really care who wrote it, as it is simply a very enjoyable piece of music, which for me is all that matters. It has been interpreted by no end of musicians in an amazing range of styles and on all manner of instruments.   I suspect that it has been subjected to more versions than just about any other piece of music, some good, some superb, and some – of course – God awful.

I have a number of different versions of this work in my music collection, and as I was listening to several of them the other day I thought it might be fun to have a look and see how many differing versions I could find, and I was amazed at what I found…  Everything from organs, through banjos to Heavy Metal versions, all good in their way and enjoyable to a greater or lesser degree – depending on one’s musical tastes I suppose.   Mine are extremely catholic (please note the small “c”) so I like pretty well all the versions that follow.

So, to set the scene, here is a performance of the standard version, on a church organ thus…

Splendid stuff I think you will agree.  Such power and emotion in this extraordinary piece of music.  I particularly love the second section where the organ runs happily up and down the keyboard…   Such happy music.   And then the sudden surges of the amazing power of a full size church organ.. Breath-taking stuff.

But, as I indicated above, there are many other versions of this piece, and some by their very nature are much less powerful, but still have the emotions of the original version, this one for example.  I know that it has a sound a bit like an organ, but it assuredly is not one.

I love the ethereal sound of the glass harmonica, such a purity of tone and that vibration… goes straight through me, but I do have a very serious sound system with speakers more than capable of reproducing all those clear sounds…  I am also always very impressed by the mere fact that anyone can play that collection of glasses, how the hell do they manage it?

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