Toccata for Piano


26th May 1999 | for Makiko Aida Nakachi
Photo copyright © Makiko Nakachi

What is it?

My Toccata for Piano is a piano solo lasting 3’45” and is unashamedly a piece for an advanced pianist. It’s playable on any piano but to get the best out of it you need a three-pedal piano. It makes an ideal starter or encore for a solo recital. Stylistically it’s difficult to describe: vague hints of Prokofiev towards the end, more than a hint of jazz in the middle ... but mostly it's just me being me ... and there’s a very good reason for that.


Played by me on a Roland RD-700sx with a bit of help from a Nord Piano 5 pedal unit - enjoy!



Makiko Nakachi, in rehearsal for a recital

From early 1997 to October 1999 I was the principal pianist at the International Baptist Church of Prague. My deputy was a young woman from Okinawa named Makiko Nakachi. She was an aspiring concert pianist and it was quite a humbling experience to listen to one of her concerts. After one Sunday morning service in February 1999 she walked over to where I was standing by the piano. She expressed appreciation of my playing during the service, paused for a moment, and then said, “I would love to be able to play the piano like you. Can you write something for me?” I was astonished. Here was a professional pianist saying that she wanted to be able to play like me. I told her of my surprise. She smiled and said, “I just play the notes. You play in tongues with your hands.” Truly, that's the most lovely thing anyone has ever said of me as a musician.

Soon afterwards I had to go to Sarajevo in Bosnia. I shared a bombed-out apartment with an environmental lawyer from Brussels. On getting back from work each day, our first task was to kill as many cockroaches as we could in the kitchen. There was a grand piano in the living room, but it was in no better shape than the apartment itself. So I started writing Makiko’s piece using only my laptop computer, drawing on some sketches that I had already in order to simplify the task. Then to cap it all NATO started bombing the living daylights out of Serbia on account of goings-on in Kosovo. So life got a bit disrupted for a while. Anyway eventually I finished the piece and Makiko pronounced herself delighted with the result.


The hands of the girl who told me that I "play
in tongues with my hands on the piano"

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