Bach’s signature work for organ solo, performed on a Flentrop organ by Rodney Gehrke, as part of the Voices of Music “Great Works” series, recorded in Ultra HD, 4K resolution.
One of the most brilliant and creative compositions ever written for the organ, the Toccata and Fugue are characterized by a grand, cathedral-like architecture. Pedal points provide the foundation, strettos engrave recurring design motifs on the architraves that join immense columns of sound, quirky modulations form spandrels at the ends of phrases, blue notes spout from the gargoyles guarding the rails of free-form episodes–episodes that form a fan-vault over the chords; subject and counter-subject weave rood-screens between the main formal sections, the fugue rules square the structure in balanced harmony, and striking modal colors provide illumination through the clerestory windows of Bach’s imagination.
The work is unique in many respects, and these unique qualities–for example, the solo statement of the fugue subject in the pedals is unprecedented in any work of the baroque–have led some musicologists (not us) to speculate that the work may not be by Bach, or that it is an arrangement drawn from a work for another instrument. But what instrument besides the organ could build a cathedral of sound?
Notes on the recording:
The earliest source for the Toccata and Fugue comes from a later manuscript, possibly indirectly connected to one of Bach’s students: in this earliest source, the opening tempo is marked “adagio”, and the opening phrases conclude with coronas (crowns–now called fermatas). See the facsimile of the ms. here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rincgk_02.gif
The fugue is performed at a tempo in which all the lines can be clearly heard, in particular the solo presentation of the subject played on the pedals. Five matched microphones were used in a surround sound formation along with HD camcorders running special software for resolving details in low light.