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Thread: The best Bach-Toccata & Fugue in D-minor?

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    Midshipman, Forte branchporter's Avatar
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    Thumbs up The best Bach-Toccata & Fugue in D-minor?

    Some have said that 18 year old Gert van Hoef's interpretation of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor is the best they have heard.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEHGxpRoZQM


    You may know Gert's story:
    Only months after Gert's family got a home organ, he "cut his teeth" on this same Bach piece, learning to play it by ear and by watching videos. At that time he was 13, and couldn't read music. He posted it, abbreviated and not without mistakes, but showing great potential. The link is below. Shortly after he posted this five years ago, he began studying music in earnest. Here is the first of his now over 145 videos which have been viewed nearly 3 1/2 million times.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKmpm8S3lVg
    Last edited by branchporter; Jun-12-2013 at 19:05. Reason: Reworded and added info.

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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Dorsetmike's Avatar
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    I would expect you to get almost as many different opinions as you get replies. One man's best could be anothers yuk. Personal tastes can vary enormously, and with the organ having so many registration options available just adds to the choice; the speed at which the the work is played, the phrasing, technical ability, and as already mentioned the registration should all be considered I wouldn't even start to suggest a best, I know what I like, but would not claim it as being the best.

    Another point, to my mind the work has almost been done to death, Bach wrote over a thousand works, why must so many people pick on just the one work to the exclusion of so many others; personally I would prefer to hear the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor BWV 582 any day or some of John Stanley's organ and harpsichord concertos.

    Just for a change try it this way, give it a chance and listen, dont dismiss it without a chance.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgbgUrp1a70
    Cheers MIKE.

    How many roads must a man walk down ... ... before he admits he's lost?

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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
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    I have been following Gert since he started posting and in five years he has came further than most do with many years of formal study..IMHO
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
    - Jean Langlais

    I wish you the Best for each day, now and always.

    Bill

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    Captain of Water Music JONESEY's Avatar
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    Wow, what a great rendition of a wonderful piece.
    ---
    Twitter: Jonesey789
    http://jonesey73.wordpress.com/

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    Captain of Water Music pcnd5584's Avatar
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    I am in complete agreement with Dorsetmike. I would take just about anyone's performance of the 'Dorian' Toccata and Fugue, over the wretched, greatly over-exposed '565' any day. The 'Dorian' is a far superior composition. I regard the fugue in particular to be one of the most satisfying of all Bach's organ fugues.

    The other - I should be happy to let it rot in obscurity - along with another tired and well-worn piece: Widor's famous Toccata. Yes, I know it is a good piece - but it has also been done to death. There is a wealth of beautiful music out there, which needs exploring.

    To include these two works still as part of a recital, is like going to a concert to listen to your favourite orchestra - and only ever hearing them perform Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Chaikovskiy's* 1812 Overture and Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmisuk.



    * I know I have omitted the 'T'. I speak a little Russian, and I have no idea why this composer's name is spelled with an initial 'T', when using the Western alphabet. The Cyrillic alphablet is phonetic - and there is simply no letter (or symbol) for a 'Tch' sound. His name would be written thus: Чайковский. The first letter is pronounced 'cha' (or sometimes 'che' or, very occasionally, 'sh' - but never 'tch').

    Pedant mode off.
    Last edited by pcnd5584; Jul-09-2013 at 12:07.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

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    Midshipman, Forte branchporter's Avatar
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    Dorsetmike and pcnd5584 - I agree with most of your points, but I am in complete agreement with this comment on Gert's performance: "Several years ago, I said I never needed to hear BWV 565 ever again. I was wrong: This performance is done with such enthusiasm and musicality that it's like hearing this overplayed work for the first time".

    When I throughly enjoy a performance of a piece that had become trite and uninteresting to me, it says a lot about the performer. Gert will begin studies at a music conservatory this fall. It will be interesting to see what lies ahead!

    Again, here is the video under discussion. If someone has an interpretation that they feel is better, I'd love to listen to it!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEHGxpRoZQM
    Last edited by branchporter; Jul-12-2013 at 23:58. Reason: Added the lonk

  8. #7
    Captain of Water Music pcnd5584's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by branchporter View Post
    Dorsetmike and pcnd5584 - I agree with most of your points, but I am in complete agreement with this comment on Gert's performance: "Several years ago, I said I never needed to hear BWV 565 ever again. I was wrong: This performance is done with such enthusiasm and musicality that it's like hearing this overplayed work for the first time".

    When I throughly enjoy a performance of a piece that had become trite and uninteresting to me, it says a lot about the performer. Gert will begin studies at a music conservatory this fall. It will be interesting to see what lies ahead!

    Again, here is the video under discussion. If someone has an interpretation that they feel is better, I'd love to listen to it!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEHGxpRoZQM

    This is certainly a positive thought - I am glad that you have found a performance which you like.

    However, for my money, I found it wayward, lacking in cohesion and, in many places, far too ponderous - and with pauses which were so long that the linear flow and energy of the music was interrupted and attenuated. The fugue had a better sense of flow, although I thought that the reduction in sound after the interrupted cadence (at about 08'.00"), was ineffective and again robbed the music of its vitality - which, at that point, was surely a vital ingredient in the overall effect.

    The registrants were generally efficient - although around 08'.40" onwards, there were a few places where stops were added during chords - which could have been avoided with a little more care.

    The tuning (and possibly the wind supply) on the last chord was foul - in addition, what sounded like a 32ft. reed was also not absolutely on pitch. I realise that this is not necessarily the fault of the player - although when I have made commercial recordings, I have always done everything possible to ensure that the instrument is in good working order - and in tune.
    I also wondered whether the Pedal Organ had (for some inexplicable reason) been tuned to a different temperament that the claviers; if ( as I suspect) this is not the case, the Pedal reed - and one or two other stops - would benefit from the tender ministrations of a good tuner.

    In addition, as a performer and teacher of many years' experience, there really is no point whatsoever in all those hand and arm gestures. They are simply a waste of energy - and, as far as the sound is concerned - redundant. I would go so far as to state that a really good player has no need of such empty gesticulation. A good example of a world-class player who does not resort to unnecessary or demonstrative movement is David Briggs. Another was Sir George Thalben-Ball, who, it is said, resembled a bank manager when playing - his body as near to motionless as possible when performing even the most demanding of works. He too was, in his day, a player of absolutely top class.

    On balance, I have to say that this performance does nothing to persuade me that this piece is either exciting - or worthy of revivification.
    Last edited by pcnd5584; Jul-14-2013 at 03:02.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

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    Midshipman, Forte branchporter's Avatar
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    pcnd5584 - sorry, to me your criticisms count for nothing. The video's 167 thumbs up to one thumb down speak more eloquently.

    I checked out many videos by David Briggs, including his rendition of Vidor's Toccata. I did not see or hear enjoyment or emotion in his playing. Many looked and sounded very labored. None received anywhere close to the thumbs up to thumbs down ratios that Gert has received for most, if not all of his videos.

    With young, enthusiastic organists like Gert and others coming on the scene, staid and mechanical playing may be on the way out.

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    Midshipman, Forte branchporter's Avatar
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    If you want to hear Gert play at a steady meter and without a lot of "gesticulation", here's an interesting piece he posted just hours ago. I had never heard this ....I prefer the Bach!

    "Basso Ostinato" / Handel, Organ Concerto in G minor, Op.7, No.5, Andante larghetto e Staccato
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DZdN_W2W6Y
    Last edited by branchporter; Jul-17-2013 at 07:41.

  12. #10
    Captain of Water Music pcnd5584's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by branchporter View Post
    pcnd5584 - sorry, to me your criticisms count for nothing. The video's 167 thumbs up to one thumb down speak more eloquently.

    I checked out many videos by David Briggs, including his rendition of Vidor's Toccata. I did not see or hear enjoyment or emotion in his playing. Many looked and sounded very labored. None received anywhere close to the thumbs up to thumbs down ratios that Gert has received for most, if not all of his videos.

    With young, enthusiastic organists like Gert and others coming on the scene, staid and mechanical playing may be on the way out.

    With regard to David Briggs - many have said exactly the opposite of your expressed opinion. The fact that he can fill a church or concert venue when he plays - and the fact that he has many highly regarded commercial recordings to his credit may count for something. A local organist (himself a young man of great talent and ability), after hearing Briggs play live for the first time, said 'Stunning'. In fact, so moved was he by Briggs' playing, that he contacted David Briggs shortly afterwards, in order to request lessons from him. I have heard David Briggs play live on many occasions (and had the privilege of turning pages and even playing a small excerpt in his transcription of Mahler's Fifth Symphony) and I have never found his playing to be laboured; rather exciting, vital and utterly musical.

    The 'thumbs up' tally counts for nothing as far as I am concerned. I could point you to many videos on YouTube, all of which have a high number of positive reviews, but which have (for example) a middle-aged woman playing a few chords on a large American organ, or someone dashing off a sloppy and inaccurate version of some well-known piece - such as Widor's
    (not 'Vidor') Toccata - which probably achieved the large quantity of positive votes purely because it was fast * and 'exciting'.

    In any case, it does not alter the fact that meaningless hand and arm gestures (for example) have no aural effect on the music. Any enjoyment or emotional response is purely the reaction of the listener.

    For my money, I should prefer to listen to Briggs' playing any day, rather than watch someone flapping around like wet cloth in a rainstorm.

    However - each to his own.




    * Something this piece was not intended to be.
    Last edited by pcnd5584; Jul-19-2013 at 11:52.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

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    Captain of Water Music pcnd5584's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by branchporter View Post
    If you want to hear Gert play at a steady meter and without a lot of "gesticulation", here's an interesting piece he posted just hours ago. I had never heard this ....I prefer the Bach!

    "Basso Ostinato" / Handel, Organ Concerto in G minor, Op.7, No.5, Andante larghetto e Staccato
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DZdN_W2W6Y


    This is better, certainly. The performer did not 'get in the way' of' the music - which, for me, he did in the previous video.

    Aside from some unsteadiness in the pulse (around 03.'36"), the performance was controlled, measured and musical.

    I should be interested to know why it is necessary (apparently) for a musician to indulge in meaningless gestures and unnecessary movements when playing a fast or 'exciting' piece.
    Last edited by pcnd5584; Jul-19-2013 at 12:40.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

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    Midshipman, Forte branchporter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pcnd5584 View Post

    This is better, certainly. The performer did not 'get in the way' of' the music - which, for me, he did in the previous video.

    Aside from some unsteadiness in the pulse (around 03.'36"), the performance was controlled, measured and musical.

    I should be interested to know why it is necessary (apparently) for a musician to indulge in meaningless gestures and unnecessary movements when playing a fast or 'exciting' piece.
    I'm quite sure that "meaningless gestures" come naturally for some and not for others. I think it helps Gert put expression into his playing. I'm sure that Gert isn't showing off, trying to be a Liberace. Gert and I have messaged each other - I believe he a very unpretentious person His "flair" may lessen with age. It may be tiring, but he seems to be able to play several pieces at one sitting on old trackers with keyboards coupled. My concern is that it might lead to early carpal tunnel or joint problems.

    Re: "Vidor" - good grief! I know better than that! At least I know how to pronounce it.

    Re: David Briggs: Of course he's a fine organist. My observation was limited to watching the only videos could find. I'm sorry if my defense of Gert caused me to be more critical of one of your favorites than I otherwise would have been.

    Re Gert: I do think you were a bit hard on this young organist who began his music career and learned to read music at 14, then, at 18, played an interpretation of Bach that many considered to be the best they had heard. On the other hand, thanks for your good words about his Handel video. Gert has been accepted at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague - It is my hope and expectation that he will go far!
    Last edited by branchporter; Jul-19-2013 at 18:59.

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    Captain of Water Music pcnd5584's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by branchporter View Post
    I'm quite sure that "meaningless gestures" come naturally for some and not for others. I think it helps Gert put expression into his playing. I'm sure that Gert isn't showing off, trying to be a Liberace. Gert and I have messaged each other - I believe he a very unpretentious person His "flair" may lessen with age. It may be tiring, but he seems to be able to play several pieces at one sitting on old trackers with keyboards coupled. My concern is that it might lead to early carpal tunnel or joint problems.
    He should be okay. I also used to practise on a couple of tracker instruments; one three-clavier organ, the touch of which was so heavy, the Widor Toccata was impossible to play when coupled.

    Quote Originally Posted by branchporter View Post

    Re: David Briggs: Of course he's a fine organist. My observation was limited to watching the only videos could find. I'm sorry if my defense of Gert caused me to be more critical of one of your favorites than I otherwise would have been.
    Possibly - Briggs was my teacher (for improvisation), whilst he was at Gloucester Cathedral. I have first-hand knowledge of his brilliance - and incredible musicality. I am also honoured to number him amongst my friends.

    Quote Originally Posted by branchporter View Post
    Re Gert: I do think you were a bit hard on this young organist who began his music career and learned to read music at 14, then, at 18, played an interpretation of Bach that many considered to be the best they had heard. On the other hand, thanks for your good words about his Handel video. Gert has been accepted at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague - It is my hope and expectation that he will go far!
    Again - possibly.

    Of his talent, there is no doubt. Whilst I do not teach my own pupils to indulge in extraneous hand movements, I am still well aware of Gert's musical ability. I am pleased to learn that he has been accepted for further study at the Royal Conservatory of Music, in The Hague. It will be interesting to see how his playing develops.

    I am due to visit The Netherlands in a couple of weeks - perhaps I may hear him play live.

    Last edited by pcnd5584; Jul-20-2013 at 11:26.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

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    Midshipman, Forte branchporter's Avatar
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    pcnd5584 - I hope you have a fine trip to The Netherlands!

    True story - while doing a search for "Feike Asma", I stumbled across something that I considered very insightful:

    "Some criticize Gert for his animation while playing - his arm movement and hand lift, etc, thinking it distracts from his playing. . Others see this as his natural style and his involvement in his playing which enhances his playing. One of Gert's "heroes" is the popular Dutch organist and composer Feike Asma (1912-1984), who used a lot of "flair" while playing."

    I suddenly realized why I agreed with this - I had written it two years ago - ha ha!

    I agree that organ students should not be taught to "indulge in extraneous hand movements".
    I'm curious - If that style of playing comes naturally for them, do you think it should be "un-taught"?

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    Captain of Water Music pcnd5584's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by branchporter View Post
    pcnd5584 - I hope you have a fine trip to The Netherlands!

    Thank you.


    Quote Originally Posted by branchporter View Post
    I agree that organ students should not be taught to "indulge in extraneous hand movements".
    I'm curious - If that style of playing comes naturally for them, do you think it should be "un-taught"?
    If I were to take over the teaching of a student who played like this, unless there were more pressing worries,* I should probably ask them why they felt it necessary to play in that way. I might then ask them to listen more carefully to their own playing, both with and without the gestures. (I would also demonstrate by playing in both ways myself.) Aside from the fact that unnecessary movements could actually result in making mistakes (since the movements would be, by their nature, slightly uncontrolled), the hand movements have no perceptible beneficial aural effect on the music - so why do them?

    I would still regard this type of playing as something akin to unnecessary showmanship. (This is not quite the correct term, but since it is now 23:12, I am a little tired.)


    However, personally I find that this type of playing distracts me from the music. I am much more interested in whether a performer can communicate through the notes something of the nature of each piece - and to touch (in the sense of engendering an emotive response) the listener. For example, some years ago, Dame Gillian Weir recorded a series of six programmes - entitled The King of Instruments - on six different pipe organs, finishing on the mighty C
    availlé-Coll instrument in S. Ouen, Rouen. The last piece in the programme was Franck's Troisième Choral. When she finished the final 'take', she turned round and noticed that the cameraman was so moved by the beauty and raw power of the music that he was in tears. However, when one watched her play on the recording, she was un-demonstrative, not resorting to any unnecessary movements. Rather, her performance had communicated entirely, through the treatment of the notes, that which she (and Franck) wished to 'say'.



    * For example, weaknesses in technique, lack of musical awareness or unsteady rhythm; that type of thing.
    Last edited by pcnd5584; Jul-26-2013 at 01:51.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

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