Monday, December 28, 2015

In Commemoration Of Meredith On Her 30th: The Great Bach Tocata & Fugue In D Minor

Posted by Our Main Posters

Fittingly, played by a woman. We think Meredith would have liked that.

The woman is Emà­lia Dzemjanová, and she is playing in St. Elisabeth Cathedral in Košice in eastern Slovakia where she has recorded often.

A church organ is not an instrument that many women play, perhaps because it is physically the most taxing. And the thunderous D Minor is especially taxing and both feet need to be pretty busy. The lowest notes here would all be played by Emilia’s feet.

In fact this is the only rendition on a church organ that we can find on YouTube by a woman. No harm in going where no woman has gone before, right?

Posted by Our Main Posters on 12/28/15 at 03:00 PM in

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I went to see the Bach cathedral in Liepzig once, on a trip back from Berlin to Frankfurt.

This was soon after the Berlin Wall came down and that pert of Germany still had almost no tourists. It was early evening and the church was open, as always, but there wasnt anyone else around. Not anyone. Given that this is BACH it felt quite sad.

In the morning, I went back. There was an organist there, a woman, high at the back, practicing Bach on one of the two massive organs. She was really soaring. The sheer volume would put an entire orchestra in the shade.

Apart from her, I was still the only one around. To my knowledge, she never saw me. I had to leave before she was done, and I always sort of regretted not thanking her.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/29/15 at 03:24 AM | #

Actually there are serious doubts about whether BWV 565 is Bach’s. In relation to other similar Bach pieces, there are some notable distinctions and a bit of clumsiness as well:,_BWV_565

That said, a better example of Bach’s ‘maestranza’ are his Brandenburg Concertos, particularly no. 2:

Posted by Olleosnep on 12/29/15 at 05:08 AM | #

RIP, Meredith.

Posted by JohnQ on 12/29/15 at 09:55 AM | #

Hi Olleosnep

This is good. I know you work in an area where ownership of intellectual property is at stake. Might we call it Bach school then? Ascription is often a struggle but that often leads to greater appreciation of a work (see your link).

For the several Gospels, Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Vermeer, some Impressionists, on and on, there are similar uncertainties now. Roman sculptors copied Greek sculptors. Art forgeries still occasionally turn up, so do new ascriptions to great artists of “orphan” works.

The Communist regimes made study by foreigners of Bach and other creators difficult. In NYC we see a version of the Petipa-Minkus ballet La Bayadere recreated entirely from memory by Natalia Makarova because the Soviet regime would give no access to original choreographies or scores. No two Swan Lakes or Nutcrackers seem to be the same.

Bach had such an enormous output, and he had a very large family of which over 50 were musicians. In Liepzig he had a number of students. Much of Bach was transposed for other instruments. Like other composers he was on salary and not usually getting paid by the piece. 

Organists add their own twists. Listen to the end of this version of Opus 565 (on the largest church organ in the world) which to me is quite likable but sure has an odd flourish at the end.

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Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/29/15 at 11:45 AM | #

Everybody can pick a Van Gogh right? But all of what is recognisable to the world as Van Gogh was painted in the last two years before his death.

He had an astonishing output then of vivid paintings mainly of nature because, he wrote, he wanted to get across his idea that Nature is in effect the face of God. He was mentally not so well and how he saw things might have differed from us.

The Clark Museum in Massachusetts put on a Van Gogh retrospective earlier this year, and the somber works of the previous 20 years (mostly watercolors) looked nothing like the Van Goghs we know.

See here:

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/29/15 at 12:16 PM | #

Thanks for the lovely music, Pete. The only time I ever remember playing with an organ, was in the church which I’ve recently joined. But it was over 26 years ago. A string quartet I was playing violin for, played the Adagio by Albinoni with the church organist. This video is similar:

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The organ is quite an instrument. Thanks for bringing it into our consciousness. It is a communal instrument that represents the fact that we must depend on each other for strength and beauty.

I envy you your encounter with the Bach church and organ. Someday, I hope to go to Germany and see all the sights! France and Italy, as well.

RIP Meredith.

Posted by Earthling on 12/29/15 at 12:39 PM | #

Absolutely beautiful music, very interesting backstories on the woman playing Bach to an audience of one in Leipzig. If she’d only known it was Peter Quennell who would share the moment to good purpose with the online world. Even one seed can be multiplied. The only number that can’t be multiplied is zero. What a fantastic sound to wake up to this gray dull morning, many thanks.

@Earthling, keep dancing alive, enjoy your future travels. IIRC several years ago you posted on TJMK a musical tribute to Meredith, you taught a dance group and they dedicated a performance to the lovely Meredith.  😊

@Grahame R, it’s OK to be Grumpy Cat about Knox. I’m on board with that. She had a fair trial but slipped away and now lives by lying to “exoneree” groups. Justice will find her out.

Posted by Hopeful on 12/29/15 at 04:02 PM | #

Thanks Earthling and Hopeful

Spielberg’s current movie “Bridge Of Spies” was much praised for authenticity in how east Germany and east Berlin looked. He even filmed on THE Glienicker Bridge southwest of Berlin (52°24’48.63"N 13° 5’22.48"E).

All looked much the same when I made that trip, a little shocking, as we had all thought east Germany was an industrial dynamo with some wealth. East Berlin with its Communist-era architecture and cars that seemed stuck in 2nd gear was then maybe the most decayed city in Europe.

Liepzig (a fine town once) was not really better. The Allies made a point of trying not to bomb the Bach cathedral though it was hit. It was black on the outside and the inside was “lived in” but the organ I heard (the Sauer at the back) sounded just fine. The other organ (Woehl at the side) was rebuilt in 2000 especially to play Bach.

There are now dozens of YouTubes. Looks like its quiet days are long gone.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/29/15 at 06:21 PM | #

@ Peter- Yes Bach school is probably the best ascription. It certainly seems a bit of a kludge and it may be that all the attempts at ascription need to see the piece has a result of multiple hands, perhaps a fugue by Bach on a violin, transcribed to organ as a student exercise and maybe even further tinkered with by students under Bach’s directive. But BWV 565 is certainly rather an odd piece when considering many other Bach organ works.

My own Bach organ favorite, where Bach counterpoint comes through quite well:

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Posted by Olleosnep on 12/30/15 at 05:50 AM | #

Hi Olleosnep

Yes that really builds into something fine there.

So I plug “organ recital” into Google, and for me the entire front page is occupied by NYC churches (several recitals a week) except for this listing:

I think Google searches try to localize? In which case you may be seeing something different. Nice thing about them is they are all free though some do hope you will stay for the sermon.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/30/15 at 05:46 PM | #
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