Composer: Christopher Goldston
Series: Original Solos
Instrumentation: Piano Solo
Level: Early Advanced
Key: C minor
Time Signature: 3/4
Style/Character: Fast, lyrical, virtuosic
Concepts: toccata, pedal, scales, cantabile
Page Count: Music 11, Total 16
Originally written in 1996 when I was in graduate school at Northwestern University, this toccata was inspired by great contemporary toccatas (most notably, those by John La Montaine and Jack Hawes), which I studied and learned while a younger student. For years, I put this piece aside. Then I revised it in 1998 and again in 2022.
The word toccata comes from the Italian toccare, which means “to touch.” Toccatas typically are fast, brilliant, virtuosic works. In this toccata, the main theme starts with an alternating-hands passage in the middle register of the keyboard. It slowly builds in intensity, punctuated by syncopated accents and colored by quartal harmonies and mildly dissonant major second intervals. At measure 44, an angular second theme enters in the bass, accompanied by a pedal-point-like ostinato in the right hand.
Following a miniclimax, the performer pulls back the intensity with another right-hand ostinato pattern, some bell-like left-chords, and some graceful scales, which mysteriously lead to a lyrical middle section. The haunting, expressive melody there— accompanied by a sweeping left-hand figure and interrupted by an arpeggiated quartal-harmony pattern, echoing the chords from earlier in the piece—builds to a dramatic, fortissimo, orchestralike statement before a return to the mysterious transition music. The first theme returns hesitantly, initially with a contrasting, sustained effect, opposite of the dry (secco) sound at the beginning of the work. The themes return in the same order as before, but this time they are shortened. The quickened presentation of the abridged themes rapidly intensifies to a climactic, brilliant coda.
Perfect for advancing pianists and ambitious students, this toccata offers musical and technical challenges excellent for recitals and competition programs, and it shows off the virtuosic skill and facility of the performer.
Approximate performance time: 4:15.
This piece is dedicated to my graduate school teacher Sylvia Wang, who encouraged me to compose this composition.
The production of this title is partially funded by a part-time faculty development grant from Columbia College Chicago.