Bach: Toccatas / Masaaki Suzuki

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Very little is known about the origin of J. S. Bach’s seven Toccatas (BWV?910–916) or of their use. They are believed to have been written before 1717 or the end of Bach’s Weimar period – but it is quite possible that at least some of them were drafted before he arrived there in 1707, at the age of 22. The Toccatas are usually performed on harpsichord or piano – but even though they are ‘manualiter’ (intended to be played by the hands only) and do not call for pedal parts, they are also occasionally heard on the organ. In terms of style they are examples of the so-called stylus phantasticus – ‘the most free and unfettered method of composition’ – and belong to the North German organ tradition of the late 17th century. Each piece consists of several distinct and contrasting sections, interweaving strict counterpoint and fugal passages with freely rhapsodic material, and as such the toccatas differ from the two-movement prelude-and-fugue format which Bach later would put his own, indelible stamp on. With this disc, Masaaki Suzuki takes on some of the earliest of Bach’s extant harpsichord compositions, after having released acclaimed recordings of a wide range of later works, from the two-part Inventions to the two books of the Well-Tempered Clavier. However, he also brings his experience in performing the music of Bach’s North German predecessors to bear, for instance Buxtehude (BIS-1809) and Nicolaus Bruhns.


Since completing his Bach cantata cycle, conductor and keyboardist Masaaki Suzuki has turned to Bach's keyboard music. The results have been consistently satisfying, as one would expect from this great contemporary Bach interpreter, but even Suzuki fans might have wondered what he would do with these six rarely played toccatas. There are more purely dramatic readings of these works, mostly played on piano, but Suzuki is attuned to this music, and his performances are not in the least colorless. Bach's intense Adagios, like that of the Toccata in E minor, BWV 914, and the irregular structures of the music have snap and surprise. Suzuki's 1982 harpsichord, based on an enlarged Ruckers instrument, is an excellent choice for the music, and anyone whose Bach collection is missing these remarkable works can do well with this choice.

-- (James Manheim)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 06, 2020

  • Catalog Number: BIS-2221

  • UPC: 7318599922218

  • Label: BIS

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Baroque

  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Performer: Masaaki Suzuki


  1. Toccatas (7), BWV 910-916

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Performer: Masaaki Suzuki (Harpsichord)