Toccata in b
by Eugene Gigout [playing time 3:20]  [Download the MP3]

Eugene Gigout (1844-1925)

A pupil of Saint-Saens, Gigout enjoyed an exceptionally long tenure - from 1863 until his death 62 years later - as the organist at Saint Augustin in Paris, while also teaching organ at the Paris Conservatory. He composed prolifically, producing mainly rather small-scale works for organ, piano, and choir. He is best known today for his Toccata and his stirring Grand Chorus Dialogue.

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Gigout published his Toccata in 1890, in a collection entitled Ten Pieces for Organ. I have read at least one suggestion that this piece was a bemused response to Widor's famous Toccata in F, which had been published just three years before in 1887, and which employs the same sort of maniacal perpetuum mobile around simple harmonic ideas that we find here.

Despite its flashiness, this is quite an easy piece to play, with manual figurations consisting largely of simple arpeggios, and a bass line that requires only elementary pedaling technique from the organist.

Within this simplicity, however, Gigout creates an effective work that grows both in volume and intensity from its quiet beginning. Listen for the theme ticking along in the highest notes of the opening sixteenths, with the pedal accompanying the material in a quiet growl. A second statement of the theme in the pedal is then followed by a clever development that modulates from B minor into D flat, with sonorous soprano and bass voices singing in canon around the semiquavers. The work then returns to B minor for a dramatic conclusion.

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