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The G major Toccata (BWV 916), though placed last on this disc, was not the last to be composed. It makes, however, an imposing finale, since it is on the whole cheerful in mood -- in the key traditionally associated with blessing and benediction. It is also conceived in the unequivocally secular style of an Italian Concerto, with a progressively-styled first movement that interlocks unisonal figurations with socially ceremonial processions of 6/3 chords, massively scored in sonorities that anticipate moments in the Goldberg Variations. There are hints, too, of concerto-style dialogue between solo parts and the tutti; and although the second movement is an adagio in the relative, E minor, and operatic in style, it does not aspire to the tragic pathos of the F sharp minor's epilogic fugue. Moreover, it is followed -- to round off the three-movement Italianate form -- with a graceful fugue on a 6/8 subject sweetly shining in the tonic major. The long-flowing lines smile euphoniously, without generating harsh inner tensions, and evoking a serenity appropriate to G major's blessedness. We're left at peace with the world, notwithstanding the startlements we've been buffeted by in the other toccatas.

J S Bach: The Toccatas. Ursula Dütschler, harpsichord. (p) 2001 Claves Records

Although this CD's ordering of the Toccatas is effective, the pieces were not planned as a 'set', as were the six Suites for solo cello, and the six Partitas and Sonatas for solo violin. Perhaps Bach thought toccatas, being at heart improvisatory, did not lend themselves to systematization; in any case they are imposing presences separately or in league, especially when played as magisterially as they are by Ursula Dütschler, on a magnificent instrument built to an early 18th century specification apposite to the presumed dates of the Toccatas. We are grateful to the player for her skill and sensitivity, and to the harpsichord builder for his craft and art. Most of all, of course, we are grateful to the intrepid, still young but fully mature composer, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Copyright © 19 August 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK






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