A Practical Guide To Improvising an early Italian Toccata

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A Practical Guide To Improvising an early Italian Toccata

This worksheet focuses on how to improvise an Italian toccata in its early form, or Intonatione, using examples by Andrea Gabrieli (Venice, 1593) as well as some elements from various toccatas published in Rome five years later by Claudio Merulo. These belong to the very first manifestations of the genre and I believe it is important to start here. There are no clearcut differences between intonationi and toccate. Both were used as introductory organ pieces that set the pitch for a following sacred vocal composition. But they could just as well have been played on harpsichord independently, or as a preamble to a song or set of dances. One distinction though is that a toccata will generally be longer and more developed, sometimes containing a central section with imitative material, such as in Gabrieli’s Toccata del Sesto Tono and many ones by Merulo.

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