Organ solo recital


Sunday 30 August at 7 pm at Kretinga Franciscan Church


The keyboard toccata, free in form, virtuoso and improvisatory in character, originated in Venice towards the end of the 16th century. Andrea Gabrieli (c.1533–1585) and Annibale Padovano (1527–1575) were two of the first composers of toccatas, but it was only with Claudio Merulo (1533–1604), who developed the genre just as much from the virtuoso and artistic side as from the structural, that the late Renaissance toccata reached its summit. The first dissemination of the Venetian toccata form into the Low Countries and northern Germany was brought about primarily through the works and the teaching of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562–1621), the renowned organist of the Oude Kerk of Amsterdam. His toccatas derived from an effective synthesis of the Venetian model of Gabrieli and Merulo with the virtuoso figurations of the English virginalists. The close links that existed between Sweelinck and the English virginalists is also confirmed by the presence of several of his compositions in the renowned Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. It is interesting to note that there are only two toccatas in this volume: one by Sweelinck himself and another by the Venetian Giovanni Picchi (1571/2–1643). This latter work is the sole toccata by Picchi that has survived: it is extremely interesting thanks to the development of its pure toccata style, this being interrupted only by the contrapuntal writing of one of its central sections, in which two voices run after each other in canonic imitation above a pedal note that gradually moves higher.

The works of Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643), however, ushered in a new era: the toccata became the keyboard equivalent of the madrigals of the seconda prattica, in which every formal element was used for the expression of emotion; such expression demanded total flexibility of tempo, as Frescobaldi himself stated in the famous preface to his “Primo Libro di Toccate e Partite d’intavolatura di Cimbalo” (Rome 1615). This Frescobaldian revolution, impregnated with elements that looked forward to the early Baroque, was not, however totally unexpected; it had sprung from a cultural context — that of Rome in the early 1600s — in which experimentation, freedom of imagination and the desire to create astonishment and wonder had become the prerogatives of every artistic manifestation: from architecture and sculpture to painting, poetry and music. Even Michelangelo Rossi (1601/2-1656), a violinist and organist active in Rome, followed the expressive principles of the new Frescobaldian style in his “Toccate e Correnti d’intavolatura d’Organo e Cimbalo”(Rome c. 1634); his works are characterised by a wealth of harmonic experimentation and extended use of chromaticism, as can be seen in the conclusion of his Toccata VII. It was nonetheless thanks to Johann Jacob Froberger (1616–1667), a pupil of Frescobaldi in Rome from 1637 to 1641, that Frescobaldi’s toccata style came to be spread throughout Europe and in Austria, Germany, and the Low Countries in particular; this was also true for France, where its influence came to be felt on the “Prélude non mesuré” and on the works of Louis Couperin (1626–1661).

Coming back to Italy, at the beginning of the 18th century the keyboard toccata changed once more its own characteristics, becoming simply a collection of several pieces, distinct from each other, with different characters. The most used structure was to start with an improvisatory section, often followed by a fugato-style section, to end with several dances. The greatest masters of this new toccata style were those of the Roman and Neapolitan school, among which the most famous were undoubtedly Gaetano Greco (ca. 1657–1728), Bernardo Pasquini (1637–1710) and Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725).

Andrea Buccarella




Claudio Merulo (1533–1604)  

Toccata I from “Toccate d'intavolatura d'organo, II libro”


Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562–1621)

Toccata from “Fitzwilliam Virginal Book”


Giovanni Picchi (1571/2–1643) 

Toccata from/ iš “Fitzwilliam Virginal Book”


Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643) 

Toccata X from “Toccate e partite d'intavolatura di cimbalo et organo, I libro”


Michelangelo Rossi (1601/2–1656) 

Toccata VII from “Toccate e correnti d'intavolatura d'organo e cembalo”


Johann Jakob Froberger (1616–1667)

Toccata III  from “Libro secondo di toccate, fantasie, canzone et altre partite”


Gaetano Greco (ca. 1657–1728)

Toccata per cembalo


Bernardo Pasquini (1637–1710)

Toccata e Variazioni Capricciose


Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725)

Toccata per cembalo 


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