Toccata, from Symphony No. 1, Op. 36
Canadian composer and organist Rachel Laurin’s (b. 1961) Étude héroïque honors any organist heroic enough to master the pipe organ, which of course is also commonly referred to as the “king of instruments.” Laurin assures us that although her exercise is designed to thoroughly challenge such a hero, in terms of mastering fingering and pedaling, it should also provide something interesting and enriching for the general public to listen to.
The approximately seven-minute composition divides into several sections identified by Italian tempo indications, although the main overlying form is a palindromic rondo (introABACABAcoda). The A section carries the title “Deciso,” while the B section is indicated “Misterioso.” The C section, “Tranquillo et Espressivo,” derives from a virtuosic pedal recitative stated in the second part of the introduction, but also brings out a countermelody on the oboe stop.
The piece concludes after a final statement of the A section refrain, which Laurin describes as an early “tambourin” dance, only to unite the A and B sections together with other materials into the final coda. This serves as the final, heroic dénouement to the many different styles presented.