Performers: Sergio Vartolo (harpsichord CD1#1-2,7-9, CD2, CD3#1,7; organ CD1#3-6, CD3#2-6), ? Gloria Moretti (un-named soprano, sung arias opening tracks CD2#3, CD3#7), ? Nova Schola Gregoriana (un-named male unison chorus, alternatim CD3#2-6)
Recording date: March & April 1987
Frescobaldi's second book of toccatas dates from 1627, and continues his earlier codification of the genre, this time in a generally more reserved style. The latter part of the publication also includes some alternatim hymns which anticipate his Fiori Musicali.
All Music Guide
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The origins of (he toccata are to be found in the earliest examples of pieces of autonomous instrumental music that are not simply transcriptions of works originally composed for the voice. In this sense, all those instrumental forms that, despite a variety of different names, served as an introduction to other pieces of a particular form or genre, may be considered prototypes of the toccata. Praeludium. Praeambulum. Intrada, Intona-zione, Ricercare (not the later contrapuntal ricercare) are merely different names for a musical genre of a particular pattern, built on the simple alternation of brief series of chords (fuller or less full, the layout and movement of the individual parts having more or less importance) and passages of rapid scalic figuration (the distribution between the hands and the structure of the melodic line being more or less articulate).
In this first period, the toccata was not yet a musical genre exclusively destined to the organ or harpsichord; in the mid-fifteenth century the term toccare (to touch) was used not only for keyboard instruments but also for the lute and even for small ensembles of wind instruments. For this reason, it is possible to consider together works of various different kinds, such as the Praeambula in Adam Ileborgh's organ tutor (1448). the preludes by Conrad Paumann (1452) included in his Fundamentum organisandi and those of the Buxheimer Orgelbuch (c. 1470). the introductory preludes for organ by Johannes Kotter in his tutor (c. 1513) and the Praeambula in Leonard Kleber's similar work (c. 1520). or the Recercari in Francesco Spinacino's lute tutor (1507). the Tastar de corde by Giovanni Ambrogio Dalza (1508) and the ricercars in the lute tutors of Franciscus Bossinensis (1509 and 1511).
In Italy it was in the hands of the organist-composers of the Venetian school that the toccata began to take shape and become a recognisable form. Taking their start from the organ school that flourished around the figure of Marc Antonio Cavazzoni. they clarified and established the formal aspect of the toccata in a way that was to have a decisive effect on its later development in the baroque era. Among the more significant examples we may here cite the toccatas of Andrea Gabrieli (published posthumously in the collection Intonazioni d'organo di Andrea (Gabrieli el di Giovanni suo nepote. 1593). and those of Annibale Padovano (also published posthumously in the volume Toccate et ricercari d'organo. 1604) and Claudio Merulo (Toccate d'intarolatura d'organo libra primo - 1598 - and libra secondo - 1604 - and the three toccatas of the Turin organ tutor). These works established in exemplary fashion a formal principle of fundamental importance: the clearly defined alternation between sections in "passaggiato" style and sections in "ricerearistico" style. Such alternation normally leads to a tripartite construction, but in some works Merulo emphasises the principle of alternation by introducing two imitative sections between three freely composed sections: bringing the number of sections to a total of five, he created a form that was to prove fundamental especially in the development of the toccata in Germany and to which Froberger. Buxtehude and even Bach himself were to remain faithful.
It should be noted - particularly given the use Frescobaldi was to make of it later - that the "passeggiato" style of the toccatas of the Venetian school is very varied: in Gabrieli and Padovano it consists largely of quick but substantial melodic scrolls in one hand accompanied by long held chords in the other; the former clearly reveal the basic principle of scalie or stepwise movement (discounting the melismas for the return), while the latter are formed according to the principles required by the necessary changes in the harmony. In Merulo, however, the "passaggiato" style is more complex and sophisticated: on the one hand, the melodic arc-is often fragmented into shorter sections which, carefully articulated in terms of their contours and rhythmic scansion, lend themselves to free imitative treatment; on the other, the chords no longer serve merely to sustain the figurations in the other hand, but take on a subtle contrapuntal character with more attention given to the movement of the parts.
Considerations such as the above concerning the linear nature and plasticity of the overall conception and the quest for formal perfection - a final testimony, almost, to the Renaissance spirit - pass to some extent into second place when we turn our attention to the output of composers of the Neapolitan school such as Ascanio Mayone and Giovanni Maria Trabaci. contemporaries of the masters of St. Marks in Venice. In their toccatas. the Neapolitan composers seem to have directed their attention more directly toward expressive qualities; at times, indeed, so much emphasis is placed upon expression that it seems that they were searching to attain a kind of instrumental declamation, the expressive quality being further heightened by the intensification and proliferation of chromaticism.
In comparison with the toccatas of the Venetian school, the examples of Mayone (five in the Primo libra di diversi Capricci per sonare. 1603. and five in the Secondo. 1615) and Trabaci (two. plus a toccata of "durezza e ligature" in the Primo libro di ricercate.... 1603. and four in the Secondo. 1615). with their tense style, short, incisive motifs with free imitation between the parts, pointed rhythms, dissonance and abrupt changes in the "affects". seem to mark the transition from Renaissance to Baroque. But this is not the whole story. The works in question provide vivid witness to the ferment and the tensions that, at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries, threatened the traditional system of modes and prepared for the advent of the tonal system and the predominance of harmony. The incredible wealth of sonority to be found in these toccatas, the chromaticism - at times almost excessive - that permeates every part of the musical discourse, the continual adoption of delayed and unexpected resolutions, the very "aura" that the works breathe, cannot but recall Frescobaldi, in whose works the ever-changing expression of the "affeels" was to find its full expression.
Born in Ferrara in 1583 and died in Rome sixty years later. Frescobaldi is the emblematic figure of that period of transition from the late Renaissance to the early Baroque: an era which - in the field of instrumental music and. in particular, keyboard music - is among the most difficult, and thus one of the most stimulating, in the history of music. It is in this period that musical theory and practice came to a crossroads: the painful move from a horizontal to a vertical conception, from music in which the individual voice tended to follow autonomous lines with their own significance (this despite the relations between the parts resulting from techniques of imitation), to music in which chords and their relation to one number increasingly take the upper hand, music based on the concept that every grouping of notes has its own significance, existing a priori and not as the result - whether by design or by chance - of the movement of the individual parts. This radical move from a contrapuntal conception of music to a harmonic one coincided with another fundamental change in the world of sound, as the system of reference based upon the ancient ecclesiastical modes (modal music) began to disintegrate as the result of oversaturation, and move ever more clearly and decidedly towards a new system of reference based upon the concept of major and minor tonality and harmony (tonal music).
Frescobaldi stands in the history of music right at the centre of this period of change. The 23 toccatas contained in his two collections (12 in the Libro I of 1615 and 11 in the Libro II of 1627) toghether with those contained in his Fiori musicali of 1635 bear full witness to all the complexities of this transitional phase. Despite the variety of forms and the different character of the individual works which makes it difficult to categorise them. Frescobaldi's toccatas are without doubt the meeting point of the highest achievements of the Venetian and Neapolitan schools. It was Frescobaldi who managed to fuse the plastic, architectonic constructions of the Venetian school and the warm, expressive lines of the Neapolitan composers into perfect equilibrium, to combine the sense of form and proportion of the former with the rich, expressive sonorities of the latter. It is here that his greatness lies.
Three years alter Il primo libro di Capricci fatti sopra diversi soggetti et arie in partitura (Rome, 1624), Frescobaldi published his fifth collection of instrumental music, Il secondo libro di toccate... d'intavolatura di cim-balo et organo (Rome, 1627), This work of the composer's maturity maybe considered as the culmination of all Frescobaldi's keyboard works, the meeting point of his previuos compositional experiences and the fundamental premises of his future-oeuvre.
The impression of an almost uninterrupted flow, that slightly forced feeling that we may sometimes sense in the earlier collection of toccatas, is here replaced by the impression of an organism that breathes easily, without labour, producing an alternating play of tension and relaxation. The individual episodes no longer follow one another with the same urgency as before, but with a greater sense of calm and composure, concluded and announced by a clear cadence. The brief melodic-rhythmic figures follow each other in a calmer, more ordered manner, as if they were following an overall design, though the fascination of the unexpected, the sudden change of direction is never absent. In these works of the second book. Frescobaldi still makes use of the juxtaposition between "movement" in one hand and "staticity" in the other, but the Venetian model is now a thing of the past. Rarely are the long notes - seldom more than a breve in length - simply chordal in conception; the chords are. indeed, precarious entities resulting from the slow, carefully designed movement of the parts. Equally, it is unusual to find passages of rapid figurations - "tirate" - that do not have carefully contours, invented anew each time and conceived in such a way as to constitute the material for successive figurations and further developments. The succession of chords still reveals Frescobaldi's liking for the unexpected resolution, the evasive or surprising response, but everything appears to be more the consequence of a certain continuity in the musical discourse that tends to render each individual passage more homogeneous with respect to the whole piece, and the overall formal articulation of the work more clearly intelligible.
There is a difference, too, in the style of writing: the frequent recourse to only three real parts considerably clarifies the texture, and the play of imitations takes place in a more rarefied atmosphere, favouring both the transparency of the movement and its fluidity. At times, when certain short entries in declamatory style appear over bichordal movement in the left hand, we are even reminded of the sudden appearance of the echoes from the world of accompanied monody.
Although the second book contains more marked signs of the tendency to leave the confines of the modes, the system of reference is still that of a transitional phase between the modal and tonal worlds, and what was said with regard to the first book in this respect still holds true for the second. Of the eleven toccatas in this second collection, two are in the Dorian mode transposed up a fourth (Nos. 1 and 2), two in the Dorian (Nos. 3 and 10), one in the Aeolian (No. 4), two in the Mixolydian (Nos. 5 and 11). three in the Ionian transposed up a fourth (Nos. 6. 8 and 9). and one in the Aeolian transposed up a fourth (No. 7). As in the first book, the modal framework embraces a sound world extremely varied and rich in "nuances", in which the principle of the mobility of the degrees of the scale plays a protagonists role.
A further difference in this second book is to be found in the keyboard style of the individual works. Despite the apparent indifference towards the keyboard to be chosen for performance - the title-page still reads di cimbalo et organo - toccatas III, IV, V and VI leave no room for doubt: the third and fourth toccatas include the instruction "for the organ, to be played at the Elevation (of the Host)", while the fifth and sixth hear the words "lor the organ over the pedals, and without". I here is no choice here for the performer: and the particular atmosphere of these works would, in any case, indicate the sonorities of the organ even in the absence of the existing subtitles. The very destination of the toccatas for the Elevation of the Host explains their thoughtfully meditative character, even in the breadth of their formal framework. Emotional restraint guides the soft curves of semiquavers, the changing colours of the chords with their sinuously chromatic changes, the subdued murmer of words barely pronounced. The two toccatas "over the pedals". on the other hand, are characterised by a grandiose atmosphere of festive solemnity. The long pedal notes support the sumptuous music of the two hands like pillars, and separate the various sections - each one based upon one or two contrasting episodes in which either toccata-style writing or imitative writing predominates - with strong, clear cadences. It is interesting to note that, with the exception of the Capriccio pastorale contained in the Aggiunta which appeared in the 1637 edition of the first book of toccatas. Nos. V and VI of the second book are the only compositions of those that have come down to us in print in which Frescobaldi expressly prescribes the use of the organ pedals: this reflects an organ tradition in Italy - that not even an organist of the stature of Frescobaldi could manage to break - that was a long way behind the rest of Europe. Germany in particular where the use of the pedals was well-developed even in the fifteenth century.
The eighth toccata of the second book is a kind of pendant to the twelfth toccata of the earlier collection: both are described "di durezza e Irgature". Now, however, there is no trace of the "scientific* in the harmonic daring, no artificiality or forcedness: the musical drama develops in the four voices along a path in which asperity and contrast are softened by a more intentional, purposeful use of chromaticism.
Finally, it is interesting to note the way in which some of these toccatas - Nos. I, VI, X, XI and, in particular. No. IX - consist of broad sections separated from each other and characterised by a change of tempo and style. No. IX is without doubt one of the high points of Frescobaldi's oeuvre. and the performer, faced with the considerable difficulties of the complex overlapping of different metres and rhythms, cannot hut repeat, with Frescobaldi. "It is not without difficulty that one reaches the end".