poco piano: touchy toccata

A tad different from the usually me playing. I think it would be nice to listen to someone other than me play and I was choosing repertoire anyway. I’m not familiar with the Toccatas and was curious about them since I am playing the toccata from the e minor partita. I listened to the recording by Laurent Cabasso of all seven Bach toccatas. Listening to them I was struck by how the variety of textures and modulations. I think my favorite one was the Toccata in c minor, BWV 911. It opens with such a grand improvisatory gesture that sweeps through the listener. The figure in the first line has a telephone ring vibe to it (I think due to the repeated figures). It is also seen in the main fugue subject due to the repeating nature of the head of the subject. I think I was most drawn by this type of figuration that this toccata employs throughout. There seems to be two fugues in this toccata; a short adagio fugue followed by the real (expansive) real fugue. There are recits interspersed throughout the fugue with intricate runs and grand cadences.

The entrance of the first adagio fugue really seems to have no connection to the previous material. I think the idea of the toccata is really exemplified in this piece. Toccata means “to touch or to play” and it stems from this Italian tradition of virtuoso playing. This is obvious in the virtuosic improvisatory runs yet not quite so obvious in the fugal writing. The more I listen to it though, the more driven it seems. The writing is so antithetical to the singing style with the extremely large ambitus and the continuousness of the fugue. It seems to go on forever; there are cadences yet there isn’t time to breathe, it is merely used to denote sections. Perhaps the toccata is also used to exemplify the nature of the instrument as a machine, something clearly and fascinatingly inhuman.


Just a pianist;)

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