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On-line Book Review

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Dimension: 34.5 x 22.3cm
TITLE Toccata und Fuge d-moll: BWV 565. Faksimile der ältesten überlieferten Abschrift von Johannes Ringk. Staatsbibliothek Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz. Handschrift Ms. Bach P 595 mit einem Nachwort von Rolf-Dietrich Claus.
PUBL. DETAILS Köln-Rheinkassel: Verlag Christoph Dohr (2000), 8p facs, 19p commentary; hard back; Price: DM 58,--. Limited 1st edition of 1000 copies.
ISBN / ISMN 3-925366-78-4 / M-2020-0616-0
TO ORDER Musikverlag Dohr Köln. Kasselberger Weg 120, D-50769 Köln, Germany; Fax: +49 / 221 / 70 43 95.
DESCRIPTION Colour facsimile of the earliest source of this famous work in Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, reproduced in the original size, supplied with critical remarks in German, English and French.
READERSHIP Anyone interested in studying the most important manuscript source for this famous work by Bach.


Dimension: 23.5 x 16 cm
TITLE Zur Echtheit von Toccata und Fuge d-moll BWV 565 von Rolf-Dietrich Claus.
PUBL. DETAILS Köln: Verlag Dohr, 2 Aufl. (1998). 144p. DM 32,--
ISBN ISBN 3-925366-55-5
TO ORDER Musikverlag Dohr Köln, Kasselberger Weg 120, D-50769 Köln, Germany
DESCRIPTION A scholarly monograph questioning the authenticity of this famous work by Bach, in which the author addresses a wide range of issues surrounding its genesis [further information from the publisher]
WORKS COVERED BWV 15, 29, 35, 71, 80, 120a, 160, 173a, 189, 198-9, 202, 212, 244, 244b, 530-35a, 537-8, 540-3, 548-50, 553-61, 563-7, 571-2, 574-6, 578-88, 590-1, 594, 596-8, 608, 620, 710, 719, 739-40, 742, 744, 825, 827, 829-30, 833, 847-8, 850-1, 855, 864-5, 867, 869, 871, 872a, 875-6, 894, 896, 911-7, 946, 950, 955, 962, 966, 974, 984, 992, 1001, 1003, 1005-6, 1027, 1029, 1037, 1039, 1046-52, 1063, 1079, Anh.46, 90, 178, 180.
READERSHIP Every scholars specialised in Bach's organ music
systematic and comprehensive treatment of the issue of authenticity; powerfully argued but readers may find some of his argument a little subjective

One of the most vexing questions facing the recent Bach scholarship concerns the authenticity of the famous toccata and fugue in D minor (BWV 565). Despite its universal appeal for the awesome image of the composer and his powerful writing for the organ, there was insufficient evidence to testify that it was a genuine work by Bach. It is only recently that this long unresolved case is reopened; it became evident that the ground to attribute the work to J. S. Bach is still tenuous.
    The heart of the question is two-fold: first, the reliability of the information transmitted in the manuscript sources; and second, the stylistic disparity of this composition with Bach’s other works for organ. Until recently, it was commonly thought that Ringk’s copy originated from a reliable copy in Kellner’s possession, and that the work derived from Bach’s youthful days. 
The facsimile edition reviewed here is the source in question: it is the earliest surviving copy in the hand of Johannes Ringk (1717–1778), a pupil of Johann Peter Kellner, a well-known figure who copied many of Bach’s keyboard works. Reproduced in colour in the actual size, it is a very realistic reproduction, which should serve for any purposes, from serious research to simply looking at it, enjoying yourself. 

It is accompanied by a very thought-provoking commentary by Rolf-Dietrich Claus in German, English and French, in which he expands his original theory that the work cannot date in Bach’s youth, suggesting further that it was not Bach’s genuine work. Much of his thesis is taken from his book which is also reviewed below.

colour facsimile, a way for the future
Rolf-Dietrich Claus’ Zur Echtheit von Toccata und Fuge d-moll BWV 565 has proved itself to be a highly controversial book, causing a stir when it first appeared in 1995. The book reviewed here is the 2nd revised and enlarged edition of 1998, to which Claus adds his responses to the criticisms made to the earlier edition.
powerfully argued
In this compact, well-structured book, Claus deals with the subject both systematically and comprehensively: he covers not only a fairly wide range of historical issues, such as sources, stylistic matters, notational practice and fugal forms, but also amply argues with the views of other scholars, including the questions of works’ origin in ‘solo-violin’ setting (Peter Williams) and ‘harpsichord’ (Bernhard Billeter).

There will still be stiff oppositions to at least a part of Claus’ views, as some of his evidence is ambiguous; the long unison opening, for instance, may not be reflecting the Italianate influence but simply a way to produce an organo pleno effect on the instrument where there were no 16-foot stops at the time when Bach wrote this piece. His argument on notational aspect of the Ringk’s copy is another area for further scrutiny, as it clearly follows a much earlier notational practice than what Claus claims to be post-1730. While the notational practice adopted by Bach may appear to be well investigated, the truth is that it is not. So while his definition of ‘Bach-Regel’ may indeed apply to a wide selection of fair copies, it is doubtful if it also applies to Bach’s early draft, especially those composed in his youth.

Claus throws many interesting questions for future Bach research.

Published online on 13 June 2000

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