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.
From early 1997 to October 1999 I was the principal pianist at the International Baptist Church of Prague, in the Czech Republic. My deputy was an unassuming young lady from Okinawa, Japan, 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,
“You don’t understand. Yes, I play the notes, but you play in tongues with your hands.”
Makiko, my dear, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that was the most lovely thing that anyone, anywhere has ever said about my piano playing and I thank you.
Soon afterwards I had to go to Sarajevo in Bosnia, where I wrote quite a lot of Makiko’s piece in the lounge of a bombed-out apartment using only my laptop computer. There was a grand piano in the room, but if one touched it there was more chance of it falling to pieces than producing a decent musical note. I shared the apartment with an environmental lawyer from Brussels and on getting back from work each day, our first task was to kill as many cockroaches as we could in the kitchen. Then 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.