In April 2008 a performance by Robert Quinney of this work was released on Hyperion CDA 67680 [The Feast of the Ascension at Westminster Abbey].

This work has been broadcast many times on BBC Radio Three and performed in the UK, the USA and the Czech Republic. It is published by Fand Music Press. To contact Fand please visit the Links page of this site.

 

Composer's Note

Toccata for the Organ

The Toccata originated as a very much shorter piece, written –it must be admitted –under some duresse for a wedding (and a very limited instrument). Only a year earlier I had completed the Passion Symphony Christus for organ solo, which plays for over two hours, and it had therefore seemed reasonable to assume that I had said my piece in terms of the organ for some time to come. However, later freedom from the constraints of the wedding organ caused the ‘embryo’ toccata to take on a more willing life of its own, resulting eventually in the present, much expanded work, which perhaps understandably revisits some of the rhythmic features of Christus but generally lends them a more straightforward air of optimism.

The Toccata opens with a broad introduction consisting of a declamatory statement followed by a quieter passage. The dynamic level suddenly escalates to launch the toccata ‘proper’ (originally the opening of the piece). A rhapsodic exposition, making much use of irregular or ‘additive’ rhythms, leads to a more melodious secondary subject which shares its material with the introduction. Subsequent free development leads through a series of rhythmic paragraphs, sometimes punctuated by brief silences, to an energetic recapitulation. The second subject is heard again in the pedal part beneath fairly conventional toccata figuration before a headlong coda. Despite a mildly idiosyncratic approach to tonality and chromatic harmony, the style allows the listener to feel B minor as the prevailing tonic key in the toccata ‘proper’. However, the conclusion reveals the introduction’s hints of competing F sharp to have been significant, and the piece ends on an unequivocal chord of F sharp major, like its more imposing cousin, Christus.

In its definitive form the Toccata received its first London performance from Gerard Brooks, and has been played widely since in the U.K., the U.S.A. and the Czech Republic by Jeremy Filsell, Graham Barber, Robert Quinney and a number of other distinguished organists.

© Francis Pott 2001

 

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