Toccata

The word Toccata comes from the Italian 'toccare' meaning "to touch." The toccata is written for keyboard to offer keyboardists the opportunity to 'show off' their musical abilities. Originally, the form was written for organists. As the form increased in 16th century use and popularity among the Italian composers, they wrote toccatas for piano as well.

The first known composer was Francesco de Milano whose 1536 piece was simply called 'Toccata.' Milano is followed by several other 16th century Italian composers  including Cavazzoni and Monteverdi. The acclaimed best toccata composer was a brilliant Italian organist and composer named Girolamo Frescobaldi. In the early 17th century, he published a set of twelve toccatas whereby making his mark on the form's interpretation.

Italian composers then carried the toccata into other lands such as Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands where composers like Buxtehude, Pachelbel, and Sweelinck took the form into more advancements. Then composer J.S. Bach who, inspired by fellow German composer Buxtehude, composed for organ the most known and popular toccata to date, 'Toccata and Fugue in D minor' in early 1708.

The toccata's use gradually fell off through the next century but was later revived in the early 20th by French composers Claude Debussy and Joseph Ravel. Under their influence, Russian Sergei Prokofiev composed his masterpiece 'Toccata from 'Le tombeau de Couperin'' in 1912.

'Toccata from Pour le Piano' c. 1901

Composed by Archille-Claude Debussy

debussy
Renowned Toccatas with composers arranged by date

1536

1543

1607

1615

1708

1784

1832

1901

1912

1917

'Toccata'
'Toccata for Keyboard'
Opening Fanfare to 'Orfeo'
'Twelve Toccatas'
'Toccata in D Minor' for Organ
'Toccata for Piano'
'Toccata in C Op. 7'
Toccata from 'Pour le Piano'
'Toccata Op. 11'
Toccata from 'Le tombeau de Couperin'
Francesco Canova da Milano
Marco Antonio Cavazzoni
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi
Girolamo Alessandro Frescobaldi
Johann Sebastian Bach
Muzio Filippo Vincenzo Francesco Saverio Clementi
Robert Schumann
Achille-Claude Debussy
Sergej Sergejevič Prokofjev
Joseph Maurice Ravel