The Seven Keyboard Toccatas are freely constructed works, all quite different, alternating virtuoso display, slow expressive interludes, and contrapuntal dance forms. The D major, D minor, E minor, G minor and G major were written during Bach's early Weimar period (1708-1717); the F# minor and C minor somewhat later.
The F# minor Toccata is the most dramatic and disturbing: a sweeping opening, a beautiful chorale with falling half-steps, a thorny fugue, an inexplicable endless sequence, and a final tragic fugue, the subject an extension of the half-step motif of the earlier chorale. The G major Toccata (originally titled Toccata and Concerto) begins in exuberant Italian concerto style, with the interplay between soloist and orchestra clearly apparent, followed by an expressive adagio and gigue-like fugue.
The E minor Toccata has a short, slow introduction, a contrapuntal fugato section with four voices, a longer improvisatory section with sudden tremolos interrupting long expressive lines; it ends with a dramatic three-voice fugue (reminiscent of the famous fugue of the D minor Organ Toccata) which works out materials from the earlier improvisatory sections. The D minor Toccata, the longest of the seven, has an organ pedal-like opening, a chorale, and two fugues: one in 4/4 time and the second in 3/4 time, based on the tail of the first fugue subject. Between the two fugues is a haunting slow improvisation with falling thirds.
The C minor Toccata opens with dramatic improvisation, followed by a fugal chorale and two fugues, the second a variation and interpolation of the first, frequently using an “obstinate” motive (repetition with slight changes) before ending with another improvisation. The G minor Toccata, the most compact and probably the earliest, ends and begins with the same descending and ascending romp; a short chorale, a brisk concerto-style dance, an even shorter return of the chorale, and an extended gigue-fugue are in between, clearly illustrating a variety of contrapuntal devices (i.e. “riverso”).
The D major Toccata begins with a trumpeting, exuberant motif; a dance, an improvisation (with tremolos) follow; then, an unusual fugue in which the counter-subject precedes the subject. An extended improvisation, with a many outbursts, leads to the final virtuosic gigue-fugue (again), this time with an added coda of great difficulty due to its unpredictable figurations.
About This Recording: The edgy clarity and lack of added reverberation on this CD are intentional. In recording Bach’s keyboard music on the piano, the feel and sounds of the hammers adds to the music’s energy, clarity, and directness of expression. All too often, reverberation softens the sound and blunts the rhythmic sharpness, creating a homogeneous and bland effect. P.V
Peter Vinograde’s annual tours of North America and Asia feature music of J.S Bach and living composers. Recent premiere performances have included Flagello’s Concerto #3 (962) in Kentucky and Hal Campbell’s Concerto (1999) in Utah. Dr. Vinograde’s career began with first prize in the 1971 J.S Bach Int’l Competition, followed by his New York debut at Carnegie Recital Hall and an N.E.A.-sponsored Tully Hall recital with Bach’s Goldberg Variation and 20th Century American works. A Recent Phoenix CD has works of Copland, Creston, and Zuckerman; other CD’s are available on the Albany, Catalina, and CBC labels. Teaching at the Manhattan School of Music since 1981, he studied there with Zenon Fishbein.
“Striking clarity (Bach)… Exquisitely sultry playing (Albeniz)… It was playing always musical, always intelligent, and panoramic in scope. There was no question of technique, really; the fire and fury consumed everything in sight. For doing things in his own way, he was few peers.” L.A Times
“The American music was highly interesting, rich with delicately colored effects and full of misty, late-Romantic fervor. Mr. Vinograde was also a graceful Bach player… the overlapping, interweaving voices were carefully separated and intelligently defined.” Holland, N.Y Times
“The premiere of FLagello’s Piano Concerto #3 was absolutely superb by any possible measure. VInograde was perfectly comfortable in his role as protagonist for the late composer, as were Palmer and the OSO as they led the audience through three movements of high ‘verismo’ drama in a style not unlike that of Puccini and a mystery akin to that of Bartok.” Owensboro (KY) Messenger- Inquirer