Composed: c. 1705
Length: 4 minutes
Orchestration by Stowkoski: 2 flutes, alto flute, 2 oboes, English horn, E-flat clarinet, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 tubas, bass drum, timpani, harp, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: February 10, 1996, Michael Christie conducting
The Toccata and Fugue in D minor is familiar from the orchestrated version by conductor Leopold Stokowski, which opens the classic Disney film Fantasia with abstract animation. One of the great geniuses of orchestral sound, Stokowski arranged many other pieces for his own medium, including this G-minor Fugue, another of Bach's early pieces. "If Bach were alive today, he would undoubtedly write glorious music for the highly evolved modern orchestra," Stokowski said. "He would find no limits to his expression, but would use every resource of the orchestra today as he used every resource of the organ in his own time."
Bach certainly did utilize all the sound available in the instruments at hand, and he regularly translated his musical ideas across different instruments. This does not make Stokowski's magnificent monsters the inevitable and logical orchestral fulfillment of Bach's impulses. This is re-imagined music, a set of sonic variations that curiously also tells us much about just how orchestral the organ itself can be.
- John Henken is Director of Publications for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.