T is for Toccata, from the Italian toccare, meaning to touch; and T is for Tricky. Debussy’s Toccata, the final movement of his suite Pour Le Piano, is a sparkling finale to follow the Prélude and Sarabande; a virtuoso showpiece in the best toccata tradition. It was dedicated to Nicolas Coronio, a wealthy amateur pianist who studied with Debussy.
The première took place in the Salle Erard in 1902, performed by Ricardo Viñes. Here he is, talking about Debussy in a 1938 radio programme (partly translated):
Marked Vif and in C# minor, the opening flourish and related passages are shared by both hands playing a single melodic line. The texture gradually expands to include arpeggio figures, repeated LH chords and mysterious, legato harmonies, but semiquavers chatter incessantly throughout. A more relaxed, lyrical section which starts in F Major, gradually grows to an ecstatic climax; then, through a convoluted series of harmonic twists and turns, the music returns to the opening material, transposed into a triumphant C# Major.
Health Warning – this piece is demanding; it takes stamina and drive, and needs strength and speed. But it is a joy to play!
Here is Gulda –