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Contents

Music In The Seventeenth And Eighteenth Centuries

THE TOCCATA

Chapter:
CHAPTER 2 Fat Times and Lean
Source:
MUSIC IN THE SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES
Author(s):
Richard Taruskin
The Toccata

ex. 2-2 Girolamo Frescobaldi, Cento partite sopra passacagli, conclusion

The earliest recorded use of the word “toccata” in a musical source occurs in a lute collection of 1536, where it refers to the kind of brief improvisatory prelude formerly called preambulum or ricercar or even tastar de corde (“checking to see if the strings are in tune”). The new term was evidently coined to substitute for “ricercar” when the latter term had become firmly associated with “strict” imitative compositions in motet style. Over the next hundred years the term saw a variety of uses; we have already seen it applied by Monteverdi to the curtain-raising flourish before his Orfeo, a kind of theatrical preambulum. Later on, pieces called “toccata” achieved greater dimensions and independent status, but they always remained “free” and open in form, deriving their continuity from discontinuity, to put it paradoxically. That is, they relied on contrast—in texture, meter, tempo, tonality—between short striking sections, rather than the continuous development of motives, to sustain interest. “Striking” meant virtuosic as well; toccatas, like the preluding improvisations of old, were often festive display pieces that turned the very act of playing (or “touching”—toccare—the keys) into a form of theater.

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 2 Fat Times and Lean." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2018. <http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume2/actrade-9780195384826-div1-02002.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 2 Fat Times and Lean. In Oxford University Press, Music In The Seventeenth And Eighteenth Centuries. New York, USA. Retrieved 13 Dec. 2018, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume2/actrade-9780195384826-div1-02002.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 2 Fat Times and Lean." In Music In The Seventeenth And Eighteenth Centuries, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 13 Dec. 2018, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume2/actrade-9780195384826-div1-02002.xml
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