I think Bach would have liked it

Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is probably the best-known musical work for organ in the world.  It’s routinely used as the ‘acid test’ for newly-constructed and rebuilt pipe organs;  if they can’t play it well, they need re-tuning or more extensive rebuilding.  No self-respecting classical organist would omit it from his or her repertoire.  Here’s a good version from YouTube (one of many).

Courtesy of Grouchy Old Cripple, I came across this rock/metal version that’s a remarkable transcription of the piece.  I’m generally suspicious of such transcriptions of the classics, but this one is good enough that I think J. S. Bach himself would probably have nodded approvingly.

The guitarist calls himself ‘Johann Sebastian Orpheus‘.  He has his own YouTube channel, and has released a CD that looks very interesting.  I think I’m going to listen to a few of its tracks on YouTube, and if they’re all as good as this one, I’ll be buying it.  (No, he’s not paying me to advertise for him;  I just like his music – at least, what I’ve heard so far.)

I guess J. S. Orpheus is operating in the same tradition as Jerry C‘s justly famous rock version of Pachelbel’s Canon.  In case you haven’t heard it, here’s the original version of that much-copied transcription.



  1. I was blessed to be able to hear the Tocatta played in a real pipe organ.

    I don't care how good your stereo system is, it doesn't come close to the same zip code as being in front of a pipe organ and being played by a gifted musician.

  2. I heard Bach's masterwork being played live once and after it concluded and I was wiping my eyes the fellow next to me commented something to the effect that Christians a couple of centuries ago had Bach and music like this and Christians today have the biblically illiterate saccharine dreck known as contemporary Christian music. How sad.

  3. The late Virgil Fox, very much an ambassador for organ music, featured many of Bach's works – including highlighting Toccata and Fugue – in his traveling show. I'm sure many people were introduced to both Bach and the beauty of organ music through his shows. As good as Fox's presentations were, there's nothing like hearing Bach played on a real, full-size pipe organ in a building with good acoustics and played by a master of an organ's eccentricities. Sadly, since's Fox's passing no one has stepped into that role.

  4. A big pipe organ is something else again, the great organs were essentially custom builds for the space they were installed in. They can, and do, take advantage of the building's acoustical signature. They are not comparable to the little trackers, nice as they are, or the electric…hideous abominations. Heard live they are about the closest you will get to being Inside the music.
    They can also take down plaster, statues, and glass.

  5. That sounds familiar. The church I grew up attending apparently had a decent organ. I probably didn't appreciate what I was hearing, but this does bring back fond memories of the music that was played as everyone arrived and found their places before the beginning of the service. My guess is that this was in the rotation of mostly Bach that would have been played in a fair sized Lutheran Church in a small city in the late fifties and early sixties. The Church and its organ were probably built in the second half of the nineteenth century. Another church had bells that would ring out Christmas Music on winter afternoons that could be heard over much of the town.

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