|Toccata for Percussion Instruments
|by Carlos Chávez
|October 31, 1947
|Eduardo Hernández Moncada
|Members of the orchestra of the Conservatorio Nacional de Música
The Toccata for Percussion Instruments (1942), was written by the twentieth-century Mexican composer Carlos Chávez. It is among his most popular compositions.The composition is written for six musicians playing a number of percussion instruments.
Chávez was approached in the 1930s by the avant-garde composer John Cage, who asked whether Chávez could compose a piece for the percussion ensemble that was touring with Cage. The 12-minute piece was completed in 1942, in time for Cage's West Coast tour. [ contradictory ]However, the ensemble was unable to perform the piece, due to the challenging sustained drum rolls in the opening measures. The Toccata was eventually premiered in 1948 by the Orquesta Sinfónica de México, the orchestra which Chávez founded and conducted. Eduardo Hernández Moncada, however, had already conducted a premiere on October 31, 1947, with members of the orchestra of the National Conservatory.
In 1952 Xavier Francis choreographed the Toccata for the Academia de la Danza Mexicana, under the title Tóxcatl. Scenery and costumes were by Miguel Covarrubias, and the principal dancers were Xavier Francis, Raquel Gutiérrez, and Elena Noriega. The title refers to one of the eighteen fixed festivals of the Aztec calendar, celebrated in the fifth month of each year in honor of Tezcatlipoca (the "smoking mirror" or "mirror of fire").
The Toccata is composed for 2 snare drums, Indian drums (1 small and 1 or 2 larger ones), 2 tenor drums, bass drum, claves, maraca, 2 suspended cymbals, large and small gongs, 2 tubular chimes, glockenspiel, xylophone, and 3 timpani, distributed among six players. It is in three movements, played without a break.
The Toccata was one of the first major pieces written for percussion ensemble alone, becoming a cornerstone in rhythmic music. Originally, a toccata was a fast, virtuosic composition. However, Chávez applied the word "toccata" in its original sense, using its root meaning of toccare, or "to touch", which he used to display the various touches an artist can give a performance, rather the different lyrical shades.For the U.S. premiere, during which the composer himself conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chávez wrote in the program notes that "The Toccata was written as an experiment in orthodox percussion instruments – those used regularly in symphony orchestras, that is, avoiding the exotic and the picturesque. Therefore it relies on its purely musical expression and formalistic structure."
The first and last movements of the three-movement work are both in sonata form, during which the composer explores long, sustained rolls, and syncopated patterns. There is a passage in which the players are instructed to muffle the drums by covering the heads with a cloth or chamois. The slow middle movement emphasizes the timbres and tones of the metallic, normally atonal [ citation needed ] percussion instruments. During the movement, the glockenspiel and xylophone also play fragmented melodious strands, bringing out the composer's Mexican roots. This offers a moment of relaxed interlude before the violent final movement.
The piece has been described as rhythmically ebullient,and as a brilliant study of rhythm and color, "creating an original climate of intense attractiveness and achieving great diversity of accents, sounds, and nuances."
A percussion instrument is a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scraped by a beater including attached or enclosed beaters or rattles struck, scraped or rubbed by hand or struck against another similar instrument. Excluding zoomusicological instruments and the human voice, the percussion family is believed to include the oldest musical instruments. In spite of being a very common term to designate instruments, and to relate them to their players, the percussionists, percussion is not a systematic classificatory category of instruments, as described by the scientific field of organology. It is shown below that percussion instruments may belong to the organological classes of ideophone, membranophone, aerophone and cordophone.
Carlos Antonio de Padua Chávez y Ramírez was a Mexican composer, conductor, music theorist, educator, journalist, and founder and director of the Mexican Symphonic Orchestra. He was influenced by native Mexican cultures. Of his six symphonies, the second, or Sinfonía india, which uses native Yaqui percussion instruments, is probably the most popular.
A percussion ensemble is a musical ensemble consisting of only percussion instruments. Although the term can be used to describe any such group, it commonly refers to groups of classically trained percussionists performing primarily classical music. In America, percussion ensembles are most commonly found at conservatories, though some professional groups, such as Nexus and So Percussion exist. Drumlines and groups who regularly meet for drum circles are two other forms of the percussion ensemble.
In a marching band, drum and bugle corps, or indoor percussion ensemble, the front ensemble or pit is the stationary percussion ensemble. This ensemble is typically placed in front of the football field, though some designers may use atypical layouts. Some high school marching bands opt not to march any percussion instruments but instead have a "full" front ensemble.
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Sinfonía india is Carlos Chávez's Symphony No. 2, composed in 1935–36. In a single movement, its sections nevertheless follow the traditional pattern for a three-movement symphony. The title signifies the fact that the thematic material consists of three melodies originating from native-American tribes of northern Mexico. The symphony is Chávez's most popular composition.
The Symphony No. 3 by Carlos Chávez was composed in 1951–54 on a commission from Clare Boothe Luce, and is dedicated to the memory of her daughter, Anne Clare Brokaw.
Symphony No. 4, subtitled Sinfonía romántica is an orchestral composition by Carlos Chávez, composed in 1953.
Symphony No. 5, also called Sinfonía para cuerdas is a composition for string orchestra by Carlos Chávez, composed in 1953.
Caballos de vapor, sinfonía de baile is a ballet score composed by the Mexican composer Carlos Chávez in 1926–32. An abridged concert version is published as Suite sinfónica del ballet Caballos de vapor.
La hija de Cólquide is a ballet score composed by Carlos Chávez in 1943–44 on commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation for Martha Graham. The title refers to the mythological character Medea, daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis, in the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece. The ballet spawned several subsidiary works in Chávez's catalog including his Third String Quartet. When Graham eventually choreographed it, she wrote a new scenario and gave it the title Dark Meadow.
Piano Sonata No. 3 is a solo piano work written in 1928 by the Mexican composer Carlos Chávez.
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Concerto for Piano with Orchestra is a piano concerto by the Mexican composer Carlos Chávez, written between 1938 and 1940.
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Soli I is the first of a series of four works by the Mexican composer Carlos Chávez, each called Soli and each featuring a succession of instrumental solos. Three of these compositions are chamber music, and the remaining one is a sort of concerto grosso for four soloists and orchestra. This first work of the series is a quartet for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and trumpet.
Soli III is a work for four soloists and orchestra by Mexican composer Carlos Chávez, written in 1965. Soli is the collective title given to a series of four works, each featuring a succession of solos. The other three compositions in the series are chamber music works, while the present one is a sort of concerto grosso. A performance of the work lasts about sixteen minutes.