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Thread: Playing Bach preludes and fugues, but separated (?)

  1. #1
    Midshipman, Forte
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    Playing Bach preludes and fugues, but separated (?)

    Hi

    Tomorrow I shall be playing BWV550 for an audition, though just the prelude, as I haven't had the time to learn the fugue (and I consider it to be out of my league as of right now...). This, my teacher said, should be no problem in an audition situation, but do you experience that in concerts, preludes and fugues are ever performed separately?

    I'm asking because I've been asked to play no more than perhaps 5 min. of organ music at a concert with my church choir, and I'm currently learning the fugue of BWV 545 and would really like to play that live - with or without the prelude. But would there be an authenticity problem in just performing the fugue?

  2. #2
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    Now, come on, no one cares for Bach anymore? Well, I wouldn't expect things to be different on a PIPE ORGAN FORUM!

  3. #3
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    Hi.
    Of course, there is not a problem of authencity. Sure? you can play on the concerts Bach's preludes and fugues cycles. And such interpretation has an historical background, because such cycles were not always in complete form even in copies of some pupils of Bach. For example, P. and F. in A minor BWV 551, or in C minor BWV 546. The latter had in some copy the Fantasia in C minor BWV 562 before fugue BWV 546 instead of now canonic prelude BWV 546. As I remember, L. Krebs knew only Fugue in D major BWV 532a. And this version of BWV 532 is likely to be made by Krebs himself. But in manuscript he ascribed it to Bach, of course, despite many deviations from Bach original version.
    Many versions are in Toccata, adagio and fugue in C major BWV 564, although these are simply separate parts from thr whole cycle or their combinations, where copyists are more respectful to the author's text than Krebs. The same situation is and with BWV 545, which in some reliable version copies has Largo (middle part from Triosonate in C major). And with P and F in g BWV 535 etc. So, you have all rights not only to play separately these cycle, but you can insert in them another pieces, as trios in relative tonalities, chorale preludes, thus creating little suite, framed by prelude at the beginning and fugue at the end.

  4. #4
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    You know, that was exactly the answer I was looking for. Anyway, the fugue does work quite well on its own, what a great work it is.

  5. #5
    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Sorry my answer is so delayed, but I agree that the preludes and fugues can be played separately. I believe that some of them Bach may have intentionally paired, but many of the "pairs" we know were put together later. I have often performed the double fugue in F (BWV 540) by itself. I have at times performed the Dorian Toccata without the Fugue, though that fugue is my favorite along with the F major (BWV 540) so I normally include it. However, especially in a church situation, I would not worry about using just one section or another. I have even truncated Buxtehude pieces at times for church services. I would say, though, that in a formal recital setting, I would tend to play complete pieces. But even in a formal setting, I have, on very rare occasions, played only one part or the other.

  6. #6
    Apprentice, Piano Messiaen's Avatar
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    Hello Tom.

    In my opinion a Prelude and Fugue is one piece and must be played together. Of cause they can be played separately for an audition or a 5 min. concert , but it would be an odd thing to do in a recital. I've never experienced it. Like if a pianist only played the two first movements of a Beethoven sonata.

    Messiaen

  7. #7
    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Hi Messiaen,

    It does seem that Bach intended for SOME of them to be paired, and this certainly has a precedent in that the "prelude and fugue" of Bach grew out of the older "praeludium," which was a multi-sectional piece with a fugal section at some point. However, many of the pairs we are familiar with were not paired by Bach, but by later musicians. One such example is the "Great" Fantasy and Fugue in G minor, and another is the Toccata and Fugue in F. At least here in the US, it is quite common, indeed, to hear the Toccata in F played by itself. I happen to like the Fugue in F (double fugue) better than the Toccata, so I have often played the fugue alone.

    In my opinion, it is not exactly accurate to compare this to playing single movements of a Beethoven piano sonata. There is no evidence at all that Bach intended many of these "pairs" to be paired. The ones he surely DID mean to be paired, as the Dorian Toccata and Fugue, have motivic similarities between the pieces--the Dorian Fugue subject is derived from the opening figure of the Toccata. The same is true of many of Beethoven's multi-movement pieces. For instance, Beethoven's 5th Symphony, from beginning to end, is clearly meant to be played as a unified piece (because of motivic unity between the movements) whereas Haydn symphonies allow one to play a single movement and have musical closure at the end of the movement. The Bach pairings which were imposed by later musicians do work well for the most part, but they do not have the unity of the intentional pairings. And therefore it is not uncommon, as I said, to hear the Toccata in F, or the Fantasia in G minor played separately, at least here in the US. As a matter of fact, I have performed the Toccata and Fugue in F as a complete unity only ONE TIME in my career. On the other hand, I would not hesitate to do it again that way if it was a formal situation and it seemed right for the programming.

  8. #8
    Apprentice, Piano Messiaen's Avatar
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    Hi Thomas

    I think it is a question of habit. Because I've never heard them separately, it would be as if something was missing if only the F-fugue where played. Even if they wasn't pairs from the start, I do feel that they support each other. A fugue cannot stand alone without its prelude or toccata or fantasy, and they cannot stand alone without their fugue. That is the style in my opinion.

    "In my opinion, it is not exactly accurate to compare this to playing single movements of a Beethoven piano sonata"

    Okay I agree But what if then you only played a prelude from DAS WOHLTEMPERIERTE without its fugue?


    The prelude's form includes a fugue.

  9. #9
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    One more evidence to mr."Messiaen", that Bach would accepted separate playing of prelude and fugue cycles, is his own eddition of the Third Volume of Clavieruebung, where famous P. & F. in Es-dur is placed as separate pieces, which frame this huge liturgical cycle.
    But I understand mr. "Messiaen", because I think, that I don't like to listen separate parts of his pieces like "Diptyque", or "Le Verbe", or "Combat de Vie et de Mort".

  10. #10
    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    I don't have a problem with playing preludes from the Well Tempered Clavier without their fugues, and I have seen them programmed that way. I'm not sure whether I'd do it that way or not, but it doesn't bother me that others do. Bach certainly wrote many fugues with no preludes, there are many examples of these pieces, and then there is the Art of Fugue--lots of fugues with no preludes. And I do not feel it at all necessary to play all the fugues from the AoF in one sitting, just as I do not like complete performances of the Orgelbuechlein or other collections. I do feel that if Bach absolutely meant fugues always to be paired with preludes, he would have still written Praeludia, or he would at least not have written them as separate movements. The desire to hear the F major Toccata and Fugue together has to be a matter of habit as there is nothing at all that I am aware of indicating they should be played together. I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that "in my opinion" or "I prefer" to hear a fugue after a prelude, but to say that a fugue is a necessary part of a prelude's form is simply not true. One could say that fugal sections were very often part of the form of the older praeludium, but I think if Bach didn't want them separated he would have maintained the older custom of keeping them together in one composition; he would not have given them separate titles, nor would he have written preludes without fugues or fugues without preludes. He wrote plenty of both.

  11. #11
    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster FinnViking's Avatar
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    I never stick to any "rules" as to how a piece should be performed. If I think the prelude or the fugue (or whatever movement) is dull, I just leave it. Even Bach has composed less interesting movements. I only play music that is fun to play. My colleague organists may think what they want, and I happily let them play as they like, but I play as I like.

  12. #12
    Midshipman, Forte _music_4_ever_'s Avatar
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    Wink I love Bach music!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by tom
    Now, come on, no one cares for Bach anymore? Well, I wouldn't expect things to be different on a PIPE ORGAN FORUM!
    Nooo!!!! I love Bach music!!!!
    I'm happy to be between other organists...

  13. #13
    Midshipman, Forte _music_4_ever_'s Avatar
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    I have heard preludes and fugues separated from recordings that i found in the net.

  14. #14
    Midshipman, Forte _music_4_ever_'s Avatar
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    But i'ts better to play with the fugue, cause preludes are just the opening to the fugue.

  15. #15
    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    LOL I love Bach, too! But even a composer as great as Bach occasionally wrote pieces that were not as good as others. But that is not the reason I play them separate sometimes. I do it because I believe Bach himself probably did not play them together all the time, and because many of them were not together in the old manuscripts. So when it comes to programming, there are times when you just don't have space for both, or playing both would make for an imbalance in the program. But having said that, more often than not I DO play them together, especially pieces like the "Dorian" that were obviously meant to go together.

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