Alexander Malofeev

Alexander Malofeev
Alexander Malofeev, pianist (b. 2001, Moscow). Photo by Liudmila Malofeeva

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sergei Redkin plays Johann Sebastian Bach / Ferruccio Busoni: Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, & Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata No.20 in A major, D.959

Russian pianist Sergei Redkin (third prize at the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition, 2015) performs Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 (piano transcription by Ferruccio Busoni), and Franz Schubert's Piano Sonata No.20 in A major, D.959. Recorded at St Petersburg Music House, English Hall, on June 24, 2014.

Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor is one of the most famous pieces of Baroque organ music ever written – with a particularly iconic opening.

Bach probably composed the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, between 1703-1707, but no one is sure of the exact date. It's important to remember the BWV catalogue number as well – there are actually three pieces of organ music written by Bach with the same name! One of these Toccata and Fugue sets, BWV 538, is even in D minor, but it's known as the "Dorian", which distinguishes it from Bach's more famous organ music.

Many people will be familiar with its three dramatic opening flourishes followed by the low, growling pedal note underneath a huge, fortissimo rolling chord. The Toccata is rhapsodic – like an improvisation – and has many features that are unusual for an organ work of its time. The Fugue, too, has elements that are uncharacteristic of Bach.

In fact, there are strong reasons to suggest that Bach's celebrated Toccata and Fugue was not originally in D minor, nor written for the organ. It might have been written for violin or harpsichord, and some scholars believe it's too crude a piece to have been written by Bach at all! The earliest score contains many un-Bach-like dynamics and markings, in a copy made by Johann Ringk (1717-1778), who was a student of one of Bach's students. No original manuscript survives, so perhaps we'll never clear up the mystery.


The Sonata in A major, D.959, is Schubert's penultimate piano sonata, written in September 1828 – about three months before his death. It is one of three that he wrote after the death of Beethoven (March 19, 1827), whose funeral he attended with Hummel. The passing of this great master was an important event in the life of Schubert, for though mourned the loss of the musician he greatly admired, he also perhaps felt somewhat liberated from the older composer's dominance. Appropriately, each of these last three piano sonatas contain stylistic nods to Beethoven; in the case of this A major Sonata, the Rondo is based on the finale (also a Rondo) of Beethoven's Sonata No.16 in G major.

The work opens with dramatic, stately chords which yield to gentler music, using the same material. The second subject is particularly lovely in its lyrical warmth and passion. The development offers both playfulness and tension, and the coda is grand and complex.

Many take the view that the ensuing Andantino, though it is not the longest or grandest of the four panels here, is the most profound. Its mesmerizing main theme is dreamy and mysterious, but often seeming on the verge of erupting into a storm. The second subject introduces a great deal of tension, eventually leading to a dramatic climax. This movement seems to pit serenity and violence, or even reason and madness, against one another.

The Scherzo is delightful in its lightness and good spirits. Yet for all the effervescence here, there is considerable craftsmanship: the arpeggiated chords appearing at the outset are a variant of the somewhat sinister ones at the end of the Andantino. The finale, as mentioned above, pays tribute to Beethoven; yet, the only truly imitative element is Schubert's borrowing of a theme from the slow movement of his own A minor Piano Sonata, D.537.

This is one of Schubert's most popular piano sonatas, enjoying currency on both the recital stage and in the recording studio. Ironically, the composer could not get this masterpiece published in the remaining months of his life. It would be published in 1839, though his reputation would not begin to grow appreciably until after 1856, when he was discovered and championed by English musicologist, George Grove.

Source: Robert Cummings (

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) / Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924)

♪ Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 (1703-1707 / 1899)

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

♪ Piano Sonata No.20 in A major, D.959 (1828)

i. Allegro
ii. Andantino
iii. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
iv. Rondo: Allegretto

Sergei Redkin, piano

St Petersburg Music House, English Hall, June 24, 2014

(HD 720p)

JS Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565

The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, is a piece of organ music attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach. First published in 1833 through the efforts of Felix Mendelssohn, the piece quickly became popular, and is now one of the most famous works in the organ repertoire. The attribution of the piece to Bach, however, has been challenged since the 1970s by a number of scholars.


As with most Bach organ works, no autograph manuscript of BWV 565 survives. The only near-contemporary source is an undated copy by Johannes Ringk, a pupil of Johann Peter Kellner. Several compositions by him survive, and he is also notable today for his copies of numerous keyboard works by Georg Böhm, Johann Pachelbel, Johann Heinrich Buttstett, Dieterich Buxtehude, and other important masters.

The title of the piece is given in Ringk's manuscript as Toccata Con Fuga. It is most probably a later addition, similar to the title of Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564, because in the Baroque era such organ pieces would most commonly be called simply Prelude (Praeludium, etc.) or Prelude and Fugue. Ringk's copy abounds in Italian tempo markings, fermatas (a characteristic feature of Ringk's copies) and staccato dots, all very unusual features for pre-1740 German music. All later manuscript copies that are known today originate directly or indirectly with Ringk's.

BWV 565 exhibits a typical simplified north German structure with a free opening (toccata), a fugal section (fugue), and a short free closing section. The connection to the north German organ school was noted early by Bach biographer Philipp Spitta in 1873.  However, the numerous recitative stretches are rarely found in the works of northern composers and may have been inspired by Johann Heinrich Buttstett, whose few surviving free works, particularly his Prelude and Capriccio in D minor, exhibit similar features. A passage in the fugue of BWV 565 is an exact copy of a phrase in one of Johann Pachelbel's D minor fantasias, and the first half of the subject is based on this Pachelbel passage as well. It was common practice at the time to create fugues on other composers' themes, and a number of such pieces by Bach are known (BWV 574, 579, 950, etc.); moreover, the bass pattern of the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582, is borrowed from André Raison's organ passacaglia, also using only the first half of Raison's passage (just the way BWV 565 borrows from Pachelbel).

The work was first published by Breitkopf & Härtel in late 1833 as part of a collection of Bach's organ works. The edition was conceived and partly prepared by Felix Mendelssohn, who had BWV 565 in his repertoire already by 1830. Mendelssohn's opinion of the piece, expressed in one of his letters, was that it was "at the same time learned and something for the [common] people". The first major public performance was also by Mendelssohn, on August 6, 1840 in Leipzig. The concert was very well received by the critics, among them Robert Schumann. Later in the 19th century, Franz Liszt adopted the piece into his organ repertoire, and a piano transcription was made by Liszt's pupil Carl Tausig, which gained substantial fame. Another popular transcription was completed in 1899 by Ferruccio Busoni. In the 20th century, an orchestral version of the piece, created by Leopold Stokowski, popularized the work further when it was included in Walt Disney's film Fantasia, released in 1940.

The work's famous opening drew attention and praise already from Schumann, who, however, admired it as an example of Bach's sense of humor. In the 20th century the work was generally viewed very differently, as a bold and dramatic piece. Musicologist Hermann Keller, writing in 1948, described the opening bars' unison passages as "descending like a lightning flash, the long roll of thunder of the broken chords of the full organ, and the stormy undulation of the triplets". A similar view has been expressed by noted Bach scholar and former director of Bach-Archiv Leipzig, Hans-Joachim Schulze:

Here is elemental and unbounded power, in impatiently ascending and descending runs and rolling masses of chords, that only with difficulty abates sufficiently to give place to the logic and balance of the fugue. With the reprise of the initial Toccata, the dramatic idea reaches its culmination amidst flying scales and with an ending of great sonority.

Writing in 2005, organist and Bach scholar Hans Fagius commented that while the authorship issue may remain unresolved, the enduring popularity of the work is not difficult to understand, since there is "a fantastic drive and energy to the piece that simply make it irresistible".

Arrangements and Transcriptions

This popular work has been transcribed many times. Around the end of the 19th century a "second wave" Bach revival occurred (the first having been the one launched earlier in the 19th century by Felix Mendelssohn among others). In the second wave, much of Bach's instrumental music was adapted to resources that were available in salon settings (for example solo piano, or chamber ensembles). The composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni was a leader of this movement, and wrote many piano transcriptions of Bach compositions, which often radically alter the original. Among them was a virtuosic version of the Toccata and Fugue, which tries to replicate the spirit of the original organ sound. An earlier virtuoso piano transcription also once much in vogue was by Carl Tausig; pianist Marie Novello chose it for what one source claims to be the Toccata and Fugue's first recording. Among other arrangements that have appeared on record are those by Percy Grainger, Ignaz Friedman and Louis Brassin.

The wind organ medium translates readily to the concert band and wind ensemble. Such band versions include transcriptions by Donald Hunsberger (Alfred Publ.).

Stokowski's first 78rpm disc of 1927 was an international best-seller which introduced the music to many record collectors. He recorded it several more times in subsequent years. Others who have transcribed the Toccata and Fugue for orchestra include Lucien Cailliet, René Leibowitz, Leonidas Leonardi, Alois Melichar, Eugene Ormandy, Fabien Sevitzky, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, and Henry Wood (pseudonymously, as "Paul Klenovsky").

In the mid-1990s, Canadian Brass created an adaptation for quintet that has become the "must perform" standard work for brass ensembles the world over. More than twenty thousand copies of the adaptation by former member Fred Mills have been sold to date through the Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, and the work is recorded on several of their CDs, the most recent being Takes Flight released in 2012. In 1993, Salvatore Sciarrino made an arrangement for solo flute, recorded by Mario Caroli. A version for solo horn was made by Zsolt Nagy and has been performed by Frank Lloyd.


Sergei Redkin was born in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, on October 27, 1991. He began to play the piano at the age of five. At the age of six he began to study at the Music Lyceum of Krasnoyarsk, in the class of Galina Boguslavskaya. At the same time he began to study improvisation and composition with Eduard Markaich.

In year 2004, after becoming a laureat of the International Gavrilin competition of young composers in Saint Petersburg, Sergei continued his education at the Special Music School of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, in the class of Olga Kurnavina. At that time Sergei won his first several prizes at competitions for young pianists, such as Rachmaninov competition (Saint Petersburg, 2005, First prize) and Chopin competition (Estonia, 2006, Grand prix). Sergei also played his first solo recitals in Russia and abroad, getting engagements from Germany, Switzerland, Poland.

Simultaneously Sergei studied composition under prof. Alexander Mnatsakanyan, one of the last students of great Shostakovich. Among the young composer's works you can find a string quartet, a trio for winds, chamber music, a lot of music for piano. Suite for cello and piano won the First prize at the young composers' competition in Saint Petersburg in 2007.

In 2008 Sergei was honored to receive the Maestro Temirkanov Award as one of the best students of Saint Petersburg Special Music School.

In year 2009 Sergei successfully passed his entrance exams and became a student of prof. Alexander Sandler at the Saint Petersburg state Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. He also continued his composition studies under prof. Mnatsakanyan.

During the year 2011 with the support of St Petersburg House of Music Sergei Redkin trained at the famous International Lake Como Piano Academy in Italy, studying under such musicians as William Grant Nabore, Dmitry Bashkirov, Peter Frankl, Fou Ts'ong among others.

In year 2012 Sergei became the winner of III International Maj Lind competition in Helsinki, in 2013 – the winner of VI International Prokofiev competition in Saint Petersburg. In 2015 Sergei Redkin won the Third prize and the Bronze medal at the XV International Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow.

Currently Sergei is continuing his studies under prof. Sandler in Saint Petersburg Conservatory. In 2016 he's playing his first concerts in New York, Mexico and Paris (all with Maestro Valery Gergiev and Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra), touring with solo recitals throughout the world, from Portugal and Israel to Vladivostok and Yakutsk, taking part at prestigious classical music festivals, playing a lot of chamber music and composing in the meantime.


More photos

See also

Sergei Redkin – All the posts

The winners of the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition, 2015

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