for pianoduration: Ca 6'30"
published by: Composers Edition
First Prize, Piano Solo section, Second S.S.Prokofiev International Composing Competition, Moscow, 1997.
A fragment or two of this piece languished in various cupboards and drawers from 1986 until 1996, when the kindly interest of its eventual dedicatee, Marc-André Hamelin, and the announcement of a section for short piano solo works in the 1997 Prokofiev Composing Competition in Moscow conspired jointly to get the job finally done. The music seeks to offer pyrotechnical interest worthy of such a formidable virtuoso while still achieving a degree of substance and musical argument. The American pianist Frederic Chiu gave the Toccata its British première at the 1999 Pianoworks Festival in London. It was taken up in 2003 by the Canada-based Azerbaijani virtuoso Alexander Tselyakov ( www.tselyakov.com ), who presented it at the Wigmore Hall and on BBC Radio Three in that year before performing it on tour across Canada and the USA, and who recorded it on his own CD label, Golomb Recordings, in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: GLDC 5701-4 (a minor revision has since been made to the end of the piece). The Toccata has been performed with no less distinction by the fine British pianist Julian Hellaby (www.coventry.ac.uk/research/research-directories/researchers/dr-julian-hellaby/ ).
The Prokofiev connection prompted a number of allusions: for example, Prokofiev’s own Toccata, opus 11, with its flattened seventh in early and menacing opposition to a dogged tonic pedal, finds a harmonic echo as the present work gets rhythmically into its stride (a semitone lower). There follow a number of oblique references to the outer movements of Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata and the finale of his Eighth. A further homage, found in what develops as a fugato secondary episode, is to the opening of the Lesghinka from Liapunov’s arresting youthful set of Etudes d’Exécution Transcendante, coincidentally also opus 11, although its melodic shape is a good deal altered. A manic cadenza-like passage near the end of the Toccata salutes aspects of Hamelin’s own astounding recorded cadenza to Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2. Despite this, the piece as a whole is to be seen as ominously insistent or enigmatic rather than (until the home straight) simply headlong. It seeks to vindicate its title by exploring several contrasting means of touch, rather than to hammer away with diminishing returns at only one.
American Record Guide, January/February 2005, Mark Lehman
An exciting toccata that bounds along, now sinister, now brilliant, in relentless triple meter.
Musical Opinion, Robert Matthew-Walker:
Alexander Tselyakov: impressive Wigmore Hall recital
The Russian born Canadian pianist Alexander Tselyakov gave an impressive recital at the Wigmore Hall on 23 November, concentrating almost entirely upon Russian music by Tchaikovsky, Scriabin and Rachmaninov. He also performed an extremely difficult Toccata by the contemporary British composer Francis Pott. This Toccata was awarded First Prize in the Second International Prokofiev Composing Competition in Moscow in March 1997.
Pott’s Toccata received a great response from the audience and the composer himself was on stage at the of the piece creating an unforgettable moment. This piece drew extraordinary material from familiar territory and was by no means out of place in this context, especially when performed with a virtuosity and a sensitivity that showed Tselyakov to be a rare artist.
Earlier, we had enjoyed an unusual coincidence, with Tchaikovsky’s Variations in F major, Opus 19 No 6, which Leslie Howard had included in his Wigmore programme some weeks before and which Tselyakov played with
equal individual artistry. He brought the same quality to three pieces by Scriabin and a Rachmaninov group which included the Second Sonata, in the 1931 revised version. As time goes by, the original version of this work is preferred, but it was good to be reminded of the composer’s second thoughts, the more so in such a convincing interpretation as this.
Review of Toccata for piano solo , Bruce Hodges
Music Web International, December 2004:
Francis Pott, another composer who seems to admire Prokofiev, gives us a plunging Toccata that seems right up Tselyakov’s alley, and judging from the audience response, this is one of the program’s highlights.