Everyone knows Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor for the organ as soon as they hear it. But what exactly is a toccata? There’s no set structure, and different composers have had different ideas in their compositions they call toccatas, but generally a toccata is simply a difficult piece with a fast tempo. Most often for a solo instrument, toccatas are played to demonstrate virtuosity.
The following five pieces are good examples of toccatas. As usual, the title of this blog is complete fiction; the works below are my favorite 5.
5. Robert Schumann – Toccata, Op. 7
This toccata is among the most challenging pieces in piano solo repertoire. Take a look at the score to see why!
4. Aram Khachaturian – Toccata, Op. 24
Another famous toccata, formerly part of a 3-movement suite. This work has an epic and often mysterious quality, particularly in those sections where the higher register of the piano is used.
3. York Bowen – Toccata, Op. 155
The English composer York Bowen isn’t as well known as the others featured in this list, but his piece is no less interesting or virtuosic.
2. Maurice Ravel – Toccata from “Le Tombeau de Couperin”
“Le Tombeau” is a 6-movement suite for solo piano dedicated to several friends of the composer who died during the First World War. Like many toccatas, there are few moments of respite in this technically demanding work, though Ravel’s work is perhaps more lyrical than the others on this list
1. Sergei Prokofiev – Toccata, Op. 11
Prokofiev’s Toccata is a favorite among piano virtuosos for obvious reasons. It has a mechanical drive punctuated with a recognizable motif featuring a stream of repeated notes.