Toccata (Prokofiev)

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The Toccata in D minor, Op. 11 is a piece for solo piano, written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1912[1] and debuted by the composer on December 10, 1916 in Petrograd.[1] It is a further development of the toccata form, which has been used by composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Robert Schumann. Other composers of well-known toccatas include Maurice Ravel, Dmitri Kabalevsky and Aram Khachaturian.

Prokofiev's Toccata starts off with a persistent repetition of the note D, interchanged between the right hand (which plays the single note) and the left hand (which plays the same note but with the lower octave as well). After a brief development, there are chromatic leaps in the left hand while the right hand plays a repeated figuration. The two hands soon switch positions, although the leaps still continue for a while.

A series of split chromatic thirds leads upwards until a descending melody (in A) with chromatic third accompaniments begins, with the left hand traveling in contrary motion upwards. This leads back to the main repetition 'theme' before a very short pause. Both hands soon play a weaving series of the right hand's repeated figuration from the start, before the split chromatic thirds pattern reappears. This leads more violently to the descending melody pattern, but this time in D, before the D repetition 'theme' reappears, this time in alternating octaves in both hands. The Toccata slows down and halts temporarily before a chromatic rising scale leads to octave exhortations, followed by a glissando sweep up the keyboard to end on the top D.

This particular piece is an extremely difficult showpiece that is very popular with virtuoso pianists and has been recorded by many.[1] According to the biography of the composer by David Gutman,[2] Prokofiev himself had trouble playing it because his technique, while good, was not quite enough to master the piece. However this fact is not universally accepted and his performance as reproduced in 1997 for the Nimbus Records series The Composer Plays is certainly virtuosic. Additionally none of the leading biographies of Prokofiev, those written by Harlow Robinson, Victor Seroff, and even Israel Nestyev, mention any technical problems with the piano past his childhood born[clarification needed] poor performance techniques which were later rectified through years of study after his graduation from the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Prokofiev.org". Retrieved March 9, 2010. [dead link]
  2. ^ Gutman, David (1990). Prokofiev: The Illustrated Lives of the Great Composers. Omnibus Press, London. ISBN 978-0-7119-2083-5.