Monday Musical Moment: BOO!
Happy Halloween week!
Many of us associate specific holidays to music: Auld Lang Syne on New Years, love songs on Valentine’s Day, and of course Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” in December. Halloween has several of its own classic soundtracks, like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and themes from the movie Psyco, Young Frankenstein, Saw, and the Halloween series. However, there is one piece of music that reigns supreme, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.
Originally composed in the early 18th century, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 is perhaps one of his most well-known and beloved works. A toccata, named for the Italian word meaning “to touch,” is a virtuosic style of music popular in the Baroque period (~1600-1750) that involves free and fast-moving passages. The fugue is a technique that involves a subject (musical theme) being repeated and layered in multiple voices, and was the crowning innovation by Baroque composers. The two genres were often paired together due to their contrasting nature. Strangely, BWV 565 was first published about a century after it was composed, and only through the efforts of Felix Mendelssohn, who was the primary champion of Bach’s works after his passing.
There is a simple explanation why this piece occupies a firm place in our annual Halloween soundtracks. Since its publication, BWV 565 has been used in many movie soundtracks to illustrate horror and evil beginning even before the sound film era. One of the first films was the 1931 silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and countless films since, such as the adaptation of 1962 Phantom of the Opera and even in Disney’s Fantasia.
I hope you enjoy this great video recording of a wonderful performance by German organist Hans-André Stamm. Have a fun and safe Halloween weekend!