Style and interpretation in the seven keyboard toccatas of J.S. Bach, BWV 910-916

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2012-12

Authors

Mace, Abigail

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Abstract

The keyboard toccatas of J. S. Bach, BWV 910-916, present a formidable challenge of interpretation to the modern-day performer. These works contain some of the most unusual compositional techniques to be found in Bach’s output due to their use of an improvisatory, virtuosic style inherited from the seventeenth century. While pianists of today are trained to perform with perfect fidelity to the score, the treatises from the time of Bach point to a rhythmically free approach to the improvisatory features of these toccatas. The goal of this treatise is to explore how the historical tradition from which Bach’s toccatas emerged influenced their stylistic characteristics with the purpose of applying this information to create an informed performance by today’s interpreters. In this effort, this treatise focuses on several broad categories in the process of understanding the inspiration and, therefore, the interpretation of these works. These categories include the genesis of the toccata as a genre, the compositional techniques associated with the toccata, Bach's personal contribution to the genre, and the interpretation of Bach's toccatas specifically.

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