The great hoax

Havergal Brian

Selected and annotated by Malcolm MacDonald

I cannot share the enthusiasm expressed by newspapers up and down the country over the disclosure that the orchestral arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor was not the work of one Paul Klenovsky, a fictitious young Russian composer, who has subsequently been put to death 1. This part of the hoax on the public having been admitted, one might well be permitted to ask if the other part was to test the knowledge of us all. Anyhow, I did not fall for it, for in Musical Opinion of May 1932 I wrote: ‘We heard the orchestral arrangement of the Bach Toccata and Fugue in B minor via the microphone. It seems to us that Klenovsky made his transcription from the Busoni transcription, for the markings as to tempo, etc, are the same.’ I had in my mind to mention the similarity of pitches but appear not to have done so. All this goes to show that with a fine performance any work will be well received and no questions asked, so long as the composer is not English!

  1. This is Sir Henry Wood’s own transcription, which he performed as the work of “Klenovsky” ↩︎

On the other hand, by La main gauche

Musical opinion, October 1934, p. 16