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Although the dates of Bach's Toccatas are elusive, it seems plausible to associate the works so far discussed with the virility of his early and mid-twenties. The C minor Toccata (BWV 911) and the F sharp minor Toccata (BWV 910) seem to have been composed a decade later, in his mid-thirties. The C minor is the most 'serious' in tone, even the unisonal toccata-flourishes being moderate in tempo, evolving into canonic exchanges. The first adagio extends this canonic part-writing through a modulatory section in impassioned dotted rhythms, cadencing on a spread chord of G major as a tierce de Picardie to G minor, but turning into a dominant of C minor: in which recovered key germinates a three-voiced fugue on an oddly teetering theme linking an open arpeggio to stepwise movement. Compared with the fugues of the G minor and D major Toccatas, this fugue remains austere, at least until it erupts in a cadenza: yet even this merges into a repeat of the fugue subject, now combined with a countersubject in floating semiquavers. What has become a long double-fugue cumulatively incorporates more metrically varied figurations until a final cadenza, marked Presto, alchemizes semiquaver sextuplets into resonant C major arpeggios, plumbing to the depths of the keyboard.

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Copyright © 19 August 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK






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