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Toccata (from Italian toccare, literally, "to touch", with "toccata" being the action of touching) is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections, with or without imitative or fugal interludes, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer's fingers. Less frequently, the name is applied to works for multiple instruments (the opening of Claudio Monteverdi's opera L'Orfeo being a notable example).
The form first appeared in the late Renaissance period. It originated in northern Italy. Several publications of the 1590s include toccatas, by composers such as Claudio Merulo, Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, Adriano Banchieri, and Luzzasco Luzzaschi. These are keyboard compositions in which one hand, and then the other, performs virtuosic runs and brilliant cascading passages against a chordal accompaniment in the other hand. Among the composers working in Venice at this time was the young Hans Leo Hassler, who studied with the Gabrielis; he brought the form back with him to Germany. It was in Germany where it underwent its highest development, culminating in the work of Johann Sebastian Bach more than a hundred years later.
The Baroque toccata, beginning with Girolamo Frescobaldi, is more sectional and increased in length, intensity and virtuosity from the Renaissance version, reaching heights of extravagance equivalent to the overwhelming detail seen in the architecture of the period. It often featured rapid runs and arpeggios alternating with chordal or fugal parts. Sometimes there was a lack of regular tempo and almost always an improvisational feel.
Other Baroque composers of toccatas, in the period before Bach, include Johann Pachelbel, Michelangelo Rossi, Johann Jakob Froberger, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, Alessandro Scarlatti, and Dieterich Buxtehude.
Bach's toccatas are among the most famous examples of the form, and his Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 is one of the most popular organ works today, although its authorship is disputed by some authorities.His toccatas for organ are improvisatory compositions, and are often followed by an independent fugue movement. In such cases, the toccata is used in place of the usually more stable prelude. Bach's toccatas for harpsichord BWV 910-916 are multi-sectional works which include fugal writing, rhetorical flourishes, recitative, and aria-like movements as part of their structure.
Beyond the Baroque period, toccatas are found less frequently. There are a few notable examples, however. From the Romantic period, Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt each wrote a piano toccata. Schumann's ambitious Toccata in C major is considered one of the most technically difficult works in the repertoire and the foremost representative of the genre in the 1800s. The Liszt toccata is a very short and austere composition from his late period, and is practically a toccata only by name. Smaller-scale toccatas are sometimes called "toccatina": Liszt's contemporary and well-known virtuoso in his day Charles-Valentin Alkan composed a brief toccatina as his last published work (Op. 75).
From the early 20th century, Prokofiev and Aram Khachaturian each wrote a toccata for solo piano, as did French composers Maurice Ravel as part of Le Tombeau de Couperin , Jules Massenet, Claude Debussy in his suite Pour le piano and also "Jardins sous la pluie" (which is a toccata but not in name), Pierre Sancan and York Bowen's Toccata Op. 155. Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji wrote four toccatas for solo piano,while Moises Moleiro wrote two. George Enescu's Piano Suite No. 2, Op. 10, opens with a toccata. The first piece, "Sévère réprimande" (Severe Reprimand), of Erik Satie's 1912 composition Veritables Preludes flasques (pour un chien) is a toccata. The British composer Peter Seabourne reverted to the earlier multi-sectional manner of Bach in his piano cycle called Steps Volume 6: Toccatas and Fantasias , his six examples being designed to be interpolated between the seven Bach toccatas for harpsichord BWV 910-916. The same composer's earlier cycle Steps Volume 1: An anthology includes a toccata movement called A Touch, with reference to the Italian verb toccare.
The toccata form was of great importance in the French romantic organ school, something of which Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens laid the foundation with his Fanfare. Toccatas in this style usually consist of rapid chord progressions combined with a powerful tune (often played in the pedal). The most famous examples are the ending movement of Charles-Marie Widor's Symphony No. 5 , and the Finale of Louis Vierne's Symphony No. 1.
Toccatas occasionally make appearances in works for full orchestra; a notable example is the final movement of the Eighth Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams. It could be said that the finales of Francis Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra and Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto are toccatas in all but name. The first movements of Benjamin Britten's Piano Concerto and Nikolai Medtner's 2nd piano concerto are toccatas. The final movement of John Adams' Violin Concerto is entitled "Toccare," again referring to the origins of the word toccata; and the first movement (Schnelle halbe) of Paul Hindemith's fifth Kammermusik (a viola concerto) is written as a toccata.Another contemporary composer who has written many toccatas is Emma Lou Diemer. In addition to several toccatas for organ, she has written three for piano (that of 1979 is frequently played), one for flute chorus, one for violin and piano, one for solo timpani and one for six mallet percussion. Both the finales of Samuel Barber's violin concerto and piano concerto can be described as toccatas. The Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera often utilizes toccatas or toccata-like forms as the finales of his works; notably in the Harp Concerto, Piano Concerto No.1, Violin Concerto, Guitar Sonata, and his Piano Sonatas. Russian jazz composer Nikolai Kapustin composed two toccatinas: one as part of his Eight Concert Etudes, Op. 40 and another, Opus 36. Evgeny Kissin wrote a jazz-inspired toccata as part of his Four Piano Pieces, Op. 1.
Robert Browning used the motif or concept of a toccata by Baldassare Galuppi to evoke thoughts of human transience in his poem "A Toccata of Galuppi's" (although Galuppi did not actually write any piece with the name 'Toccata').
In music, a fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition. It is not to be confused with a fuguing tune, which is a style of song popularized by and mostly limited to early American music and West Gallery music. A fugue usually has three main sections: an exposition, a development and a final entry that contains the return of the subject in the fugue's tonic key. Some fugues have a recapitulation.
Johann Pachelbel was a German composer, organist, and teacher who brought the south German organ schools to their peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most important composers of the middle Baroque era.
The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, is a piece of organ music written, according to its oldest extant sources, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). The piece opens with a toccata section, followed by a fugue that ends in a coda. Scholars differ as to when it was composed. It could have been as early as c. 1704. Alternatively, a date as late as the 1750s has been suggested. To a large extent, the piece conforms to the characteristics deemed typical of the north German organ school of the Baroque era with divergent stylistic influences, such as south German characteristics.
Karl Richter was a German conductor, choirmaster, organist, and harpsichordist.
Trevor David Pinnock is a British harpsichordist and conductor.
Johann Caspar Kerll was a German baroque composer and organist. He is also known as Kerl, Gherl, Giovanni Gasparo Cherll and Gaspard Kerle.
D minor is a minor scale based on D, consisting of the pitches D, E, F, G, A, B♭, and C. Its key signature has one flat. Its relative major is F major and its parallel major is D major.
The Eight Short Preludes and Fugues, BWV 553–560, are a collection of works for keyboard and pedal formerly attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach. They are now believed to have been composed by one of Bach's pupils, possibly Johann Tobias Krebs or his son Johann Ludwig Krebs, or by the Bohemian composer Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer.
Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C major is an organ composition by Johann Sebastian Bach. As is the case with most other organ works by Bach, the autograph score does not survive. The earliest manuscript copies were probably made in 1719–1727. The title of the piece in these copies is given, as expected of organ literature of the time, simply as Toccata in C major. The piece is an early work, probably composed in the mid-to-late Weimar years, i.e. 1710–1717. It shares some similarities with other toccatas composed around the same time, such as BWV 538, BWV 540, and others: all show the influence of concerto style and form.
Wolfgang Friedrich Rübsam is a German-American organist, pianist, composer and pedagogue.
Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543 is a piece of organ music written by Johann Sebastian Bach sometime around his years as court organist to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar (1708–1713).
The keyboard concertos, BWV 1052–1065, are concertos for harpsichord, strings and continuo by Johann Sebastian Bach. There are seven complete concertos for a single harpsichord, three concertos for two harpsichords, two concertos for three harpsichords, and one concerto for four harpsichords. Two other concertos include solo harpsichord parts: the concerto BWV 1044, which has solo parts for harpsichord, violin and flute, and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, with the same scoring. In addition, there is a nine-bar concerto fragment for harpsichord which adds an oboe to the strings and continuo.
The six sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord BWV 1014–1019 by Johann Sebastian Bach are works in trio sonata form, with the two upper parts in the harpsichord and violin over a bass line supplied by the harpsichord and an optional viola da gamba. Unlike baroque sonatas for solo instrument and continuo, where the realisation of the figured bass was left to the discretion of the performer, the keyboard part in the sonatas was almost entirely specified by Bach. They were probably mostly composed during Bach's final years in Cöthen between 1720 and 1723, before he moved to Leipzig. The extant sources for the collection span the whole of Bach's period in Leipzig, during which time he continued to make changes to the score.
Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548 is a piece of organ music written by Johann Sebastian Bach sometime between 1727 and 1736, during his time in Leipzig. The work is sometimes called "The Wedge" due to the chromatic outward motion of the fugue theme. Unlike most other organ preludes and fugues of Bach, the autograph fair copy of the score survives, though the handwriting changes twenty two measures into the fugue to the hand of Johann Peter Kellner, a likely pupil and acquaintance of Bach who played an important role in the copying of his manuscripts. Because of the work's immense scope, it has been referred to as "a two-movement symphony" for the organ.
The organ sonatas, BWV 525–530 by Johann Sebastian Bach are a collection of six sonatas in trio sonata form. Each of the sonatas has three movements, with three independent parts in the two manuals and obbligato pedal. The collection was put together in Leipzig in the late 1720s and contained reworkings of prior compositions by Bach from earlier cantatas, organ works and chamber music as well as some newly composed movements. The sixth sonata, BWV 530, is the only one for which all three movements were specially composed for the collection. When played on an organ, the second manual part is often played an octave lower on the keyboard with appropriate registration. Commentators have suggested that the collection might partly have been intended for private study to perfect organ technique, some pointing out that its compass allows it to be played on a pedal clavichord. The collection of sonatas is generally regarded as one of Bach's masterpieces for organ. The sonatas are also considered to be amongst his most difficult compositions for the instrument.
The organ concertos of Johann Sebastian Bach are solo works for organ, transcribed and reworked from instrumental concertos originally composed by Antonio Vivaldi and the musically talented Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar. While there is no doubt about the authenticity of BWV 592–596, the sixth concerto BWV 597 is now probably considered to be spurious. Composed during Bach's second period at the court in Weimar (1708–1717), the concertos can be dated more precisely to 1713–1714.