Saturday, August 1, 2009

Saturday tunes: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

A lot of his work is available online, but I picked this Virgil Fox performance of Bach because, although the quality of the recording isn't perfect, nothing gets between Fox and the Big B: No slightly over-the-top efforts to reach out to "young people." No two-story psychedelic light shows behind him, dwarfing the diminutive Fox on stage (saw that twice in the 1970s, though, and I admit it was pretty amazing). No stories about Bach the master, or about the organ loft in the Church of St. Thomas in Liepzig. No picking fights with the "original performance" advocates, whom he mocked as "the Baroque Boys." (If you want to see that Virgil Fox, he's right here.)

When mathematicians call a solution "elegant," they're pointing toward something like the experience of hearing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, probably the best-known of his non-sacred compositions. It never gets old, and it never loses the sense that each note is precisely the one to follow the note before.

For the music geeks among you, that's a custom touring version of the Allen Digital Organ, designed to Fox's specifications. Watching Fox's technical virtuosity-- floating between one keyboard and another, changing stops on the fly (at one point he switches a setting with a flick of the tip of his thumb while continuing to play with the fingers on that hand)--is almost as amazing as listening to the music.

Douglas Adams was right, by the way: Bach--or somebody--had to have been cheating to produce so much amazing music in one lifetime.

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