SATURDAY, May 21, 2020
BWV is short for Bach Werke Verzeichnis, meaning a list or index attempting to put all of Bach’s works into a logical order based on his life and when he wrote his music. But in some cases this BWV number is absolutely meaningless, nothing but a guess. We have absolutely no idea when this was written, and experts do not agree that it was written by Bach – or that it was not written by Bach. We just don’t know for sure who wrote this.
The Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is perhaps now the most famous piece of music every written for organ. So obviously it’s logical to think it was a huge success from the time it written, but it was nearly lost. Part of it’s present popularity may be due to Leopold Stokowski and Disney’s Fantasia, since Fantasia was a huge success and this piece was part of that. It was, however, Stokowski’s version was an arrangement for orchestra.
He was blinded at age 19, supposedly from a smallpox vaccination. As a bizarre footnote that should give all the anti-vaccination people fuel for their arguments. But more important, his life story is one of triumph over the kind of adversity that would destroy most human beings, and the playing is out of this world. His recordings of this particular piece are a bit confusing, because there are several renditions on YouTube that are mono, which would be from earlier. This recording claims to be remastered. It seems to be the same as another recording supposedly from later, and that one is obviously stereo, but in the later one there is a blip between the toccata and fugue. This one here has some kind of error several seconds after the end, which I find much less irritating. So far I can hear no difference between the two performances.