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Toccata (from Italian toccare "to beat, touch, touch") is one of the oldest names for instrumental pieces , especially for keyboard instruments and the lute , and originally not very different from Sonata , Fantasia , Ricercar etc., but mostly of a free musical structure, im Character of a written out improvisation , which usually alternates between fast passages in short note values and full-voiced chords .

Early baroque

Girolamo Frescobaldi: Toccata avanti la Messa della Domenica

The first toccatas can be found in suites for the lute by Pietro Paolo Borrono , where the title “tochata” appears as early as 1536. The oldest toccatas for organ were published by Claudio Merulo in 1598 , but written earlier. They usually start with some full harmonies , which are then broken up in a variety of ways with runs, chord breaks, and other passages; small fugal sentences are also interspersed. As particularly dramatic expression of this style became the type of the Toccata con durezze e Ligature , so with "curing" and "bonds" which the composition, the relevant works to be particularly rich in (really dissonant often "hard", by bank bonds prepared) Provision characterized. This often harmonically bold, large-scale works are a further expression in the time of their liturgical use according to the elevation toccatas ( Toccata all'Elevatione or per l'Elevatione designated), very popular, seemingly most mystical, worn records.

This way of composing, which developed in this way and is very emotionally charged, finds its first climax in Girolamo Frescobaldi's organ art and is soon also adapted in southern Germany by composers such as Gottlieb Muffat , Johann Jakob Froberger , Johann Caspar von Kerll and Franz Xaver Murschhauser .

High baroque

Johann Pachelbel: Toccata in E minor
Dietrich Buxtehude: Toccata in F major BuxWV 156

The peak of the free organ style at the time of the high baroque in northern Germany is the stylus phantasticus , into which the toccata art also and above all flows. The here z. B. by Dieterich Buxtehude or in the Central German organ music by Johann Pachelbel mostly still has more fugal intermediate clauses. The first toccatas for harpsichord BWV 910–916 known by Johann Sebastian Bach also adopt this form, as do some of his toccatas for organ, including the Toccata in E major BWV 566, but then their use as an introductory piece in conjunction with a fugue becomes common .

The best-known example of this is the Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565, handed down under Bach's name . Other large toccatas for organ are the so-called Doric Toccata BWV 538, the large Toccata and Fugue in F major BWV 540 or the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major BWV 564, expanded to three parts . Bach also wrote seven toccatas for harpsichord BWV 910– 916. These youth works are usually four-part. A slow movement introduced by Antrieb is followed by a lively fugue, often with a preference for double-headed, then an adagio, and finally again a fugitive, mostly double-headed allegro. Other Bach piano works such as B. the Prelude in B flat major BWV 866 from the first part of the Well-Tempered Clavier or the first movement of the Partita in E minor have toccata-like features.


Louis Vierne: Final of Symphony No. 1

Recalling Bach, Robert Schumann wrote his Toccata in C major in 1830 , Opus 7 for piano. With the construction of large organs, this musical form flourished again in the late Romantic period : Max Reger took it up again in Germany, and in the field of French-Romantic organ music, the toccata from the 5th organ symphony by Charles-Marie Widor obtained the one from the Gothic Suite by Léon Boëllmann or the Toccata on Tu es Petra by Henri Mulet , but also the Toccaten by Théodore Dubois , Gabriel Pierné or Eugène Gigout are very popular. Various sentences from Louis Viernes such as B. the Prelude of the Pièces de Fantaisie op 51 use toccata-like figures.

Paul Pierné: Toccata in D minor

While in the toccatas of the Italian masters and the baroque there were free runs, chord breaks, imitations and full-grip passages, "toccatas" are generally understood to be well-structured or figured chords that can easily be traced back to a clear harmonic basis . In particular, the school of French improvisers such as Marcel Dupré , André Fleury , Pierre Cochereau or later Jean Guillou , Daniel Roth and Thierry Escaich often use such toccata-like elements, the development and processing of which Marcel Dupré exemplifies in his Cours d'improvisation .

20th century

The revival of the toccata by the organ composers of the 20th century can be seen against the background of neoclassicism and the return to old forms and compositional techniques, for example in the virtuoso Toccata op. 5a by Hermann Schroeder , composed in 1930. Here, free virtuoso parts alternate with polyphonic ones Sections, just as Buxtehude did in the toccata of the north German organ school. In addition to the extraction of toccate-like elements described by Dupré, for. B. from Gregorian motifs similar to z. B. is also used by Flor Peeters in his Toccata, Fugue & Hymne on Ave maris stella op. 28 or in the introductory Toccata of the partita "Veni creator spiritus" (1958) by Hermann Schroeder, experiments were also carried out with the after World War II Connection of the toccaten style with various, often Latin American dance idioms , wrote z. B. Peter Planyavsky a Toccata alla Rumba , his teacher Anton Heiller a dance Toccata . The dance of death toccata from 1954 by the former organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck , Walter Kraft , forms the introduction to his large-scale composition Lübeck dance of death based on a frieze of paintings by Bernt Notke . A famous toccata by an English composer is the Festival Toccata by Percy Eastman Fletcher . There is a toccata in Seven by John Rutter . In the first movement of his cathedral music , the Swedish organist Gunnar Idenstam combines the archetype of the French-romantic toccata with elements of rock music . With his Toccata Monumentum per Max Reger (1973), his compatriot Bengt Hambraeus created a pasticcio made up of nothing but (usually transposed) quotations, all of which are taken from Reger's extensive organ works.

The new music zeitigte isolated examples of works for percussion and piano, the Toccata back to its original meaning of the beating led ( Paul Hindemith , Sergei Prokofiev , Witold Lutoslawski , Bernd Alois Zimmermann in his opera Die Soldaten ), other examples of virtuosic toccata for piano can be found e.g. B. Leopold Godowsky or Aram Chatschaturjan ( Toccata (Chatschaturjan) ).

Toccatas are often played by organists when the clergy or the community enter or leave the church. Toccatas are also used to check new or overhauled church organs , because with these elaborate pieces you can control the intonation of the pipes in all registers, the performance of the winch and the function of the valves particularly well.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Frances Mattingly and Reginald Smith Brindle: Foreword to Antonio Casteliono: Intabolatura de Leuto de Diversi Autori. (1536). Trascrizione in notazione moderna di Reginald Smith Brindle. Edizioni Suvini Zerboni, Milan (1974) 1978, p. XIII f.
  2. Preface to: JS Bach: Toccaten. G. Henle Verlag, Munich.