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10 Scary-Good Performances of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue

We’re celebrating the Classical California Ultimate Playlist with a series of fun and informative blogs about the music you love.

What goes through your mind when you hear those opening notes? Fear? Do you get goosebumps? Are you reminded of that haunted house you went to last Halloween or the chilling 1962 version of the Phantom of the Opera? We’re not sure that inflicting horror was Johann Sebastian Bach’s intention for his Toccata and Fugue in d minor, but that’s certainly how it’s been used over the last century.

To help change your perception of the piece so you can listen anxiety-free, we’ve compiled a list of less frightful and more awe-inspiring performances of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue. While the piece was originally written for organ, check out how incredible it sounds when played on other instruments.

1. The Classic

The Toccata and Fugue remains the most popular organ piece in the repertoire, so there’s no better way to start off this list than with a beautiful performance on an 18th-century organ in central Germany.

2. Disney’s Fantasia

Disney’s iconic film Fantasia opens with an entire scene based around Bach’s T&F, with a gorgeous orchestral arrangement by conductor Leopold Stokowski. The feature led to a resurgence in the piece’s popularity.

3. Harp Solo

Frightening no more! Watch this heavenly performance by harpist Amy Turk.

4. Shred it!

Heavy Metal musicians are often huge fans of classical music because of the deep emotion and virtuosic possibilities of each genre. Watch guitarist Dan Mumm completely shred in this version, complete with a rockin’ drum track!

5. Classical Guitar Solo

If the Metal guitar was a little too heavy for you, the classical guitar might be the right amount of flair you need…

6. The Glass Harp

The glass harp is the most wine country instrument imaginable. Try it out! Grab a bunch of wine glasses, fill them to different levels to create various pitches, wet your fingers, and play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Anyone can do it… right?…

7. The Portable Organ

Before you cue the cruel, cruel accordion jokes, just remember that it’s basically a portable organ so it fits perfectly with the Toccata and Fugue… and almost inside of a Downtown LA apartment.

8. Solo Flute

Bach wrote this piece for 10 fingers and two feet. How is this going to work? Oh, so beautifully…

9. Solo Violin

A theory suggests that the piece was originally written for violin and later transcribed to organ. Here’s what that would have sounded like.

10. Fancy Feet Fugue

There’s an old African proverb that says: “If you can talk you can sing, if you can walk you can dance.” So now that you’re dancing, why not just play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue on a humongous Floor Piano!

Written by:
Ricardo Barton
Ricardo Barton
Published on 06.13.2023