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toccata(təkä`tə, tō–) [Ital.,=touched], type of musical composition. Early examples were written for various instruments, but the best-known form of toccata originated about the beginning of the 17th cent. Free in form, it was one of the first attempts at idiomatic writing for keyboard instruments, in contrast to the strictly contrapuntal pieces of the Renaissance. The toccata was usually rhapsodic, often interspersing rapid passages of brilliant figuration with fugal sections. Andrea Gabrieli, Frescobaldi, Sweelinck, Froberger, Buxtehude, and Bach were outstanding masters of the toccata style. Schumann wrote a toccata for piano in sonata form. As a brilliant showpiece the toccata persists today in organ composition.
a virtuoso composition for a keyboard instrument, such as piano or organ, characterized by a quick tempo and rhythmic precision and calling for chords to be attacked sharply. Examples of piano toccatas may be found in the works of R. Schumann, F. Mendelssohn, C. Debussy, M. Ravel, S. S. Prokofiev, A. I. Khachaturian, and D. D. Shostakovich. From the 16th to the 18th century, organ toccatas were improvisational in nature and related to the prelude and fantasia. They usually formed the introduction to an instrumental cycle, as in J. S. Bach’s toccata and fugue cycles.