Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday music spot: A great organists plays one of the greatest organ pieces

Here is the late John Scott playing J.S. Bach's Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor which is known as "The Great." One of the greatest organists of all time playing one of the best works for the instrument by perhaps the greatest composer for the organ of all time.

There is a amusing story surrounding this piece. The English musician Ebenezer Prout is a sad case of an individual who is remembered for one of the most trivial things he did. Prout, a 19th century Professor of music, made many contributions to the theory of music, and wrote textbooks on harmony and counterpoint which were to appear on the book lists of very many music students.

But he is most widely remembered for fitting words to the main theme of each fugue from Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues. Some of these lyrics were pure invention, others were taken from well-known texts, whatever was sufficiently memorable to make it easy to refer to any one of the fugues in the book by a phrase like "Uncle Joe has lost his trousers" instead of a boring number. You can find a list of Prout's nicknames for the Bach fugues here.

Ironically he succeeded a bit too well: many of the nicknames to these fugues turned out to be more memorable than much of the rest of Prout's work.

He had not, however, set any lyrics to Bach's great G Minor Fugue. This lack was quickly remedied by various wits, with references to Professor Prout himself. The least insulting version sets the following words to the theme which first begins 5 minutes and 33 seconds into the above clip

"Oh Ebenezer Prout, you are a clever man, for you make Bach Fugues as easy as you can, for you make Bach fugues as easy as you ca - a - a - a - an!"

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