Prelude and Toccata for cello solo

Paul York

This work was composed for cellist Paul York, who recorded it for his 2014 solo CD on the Ablaze label. Prelude and Toccata was first presented 14 October 2012 in a private preview performance by Michal Schmidt at composer Andrea Clearfield’s Salon in Philadelphia. It was given its official world premiere by Paul York 25 October 2012 at the University of Louisville (Kentucky).

An unaccompanied solo work for the cello inevitably suggests a link back to the 18th-century and the magnificent six solo suites for cello by J.S. Bach. In this respect my Prelude and Toccata provides a contemporary commentary and perspective on such past achievements in the genre, while further enriching the solo repertoire.

The Prelude opens with an arpeggiated figure in thirds. This arpeggiation becomes one of the two principal motives of this movement. A melodic neighbor gesture in measure five introduces the second of these principal motives. As the movement unfolds, these two ideas freely develop and combine. Beginning in a modality with an enharmonic-flat emphasis, the music later enters a more sharp-focused region before moving back to flats prior to closing on D major.

The Toccata is the longer of the two movements and reveals itself to be in a type of traditional rondo form. Centered in an e-minor modality, the movement opens with an aggressive, syncopated figure. This initial figure acts as a kind of “engine” throughout the movement, leading into a succession of diverse musical ideas connected primarily through rhythm. The half-step introduced in the first measure also becomes a principal motivic idea.

Paul York’s Ablaze recording of this work is featured below; it was recorded in Louisville on 3 January 2012. This recording also appears on my 2020 CD, by moonlight.

Date completed:
ca. 8:00



Subito Music Distribution

Featured Recording

by moonlight