The work was sketched during the summer of 1986, laid aside in September, resumed and completed in November/December. It is conceived on a large scale, with seven sections that play continuously and are also cyclically linked. The formal model is the early harpsichord Toccatas of J.S Bach, with their many and various movements loosely grouped into a continuous whole. But the piece is Bachian neither in style nor in organ-texture: these derive from the French school of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (plus an admixture of native anglicanism).
1: Prelude sets out all the subsequent material, dissolved in figuration and decoration that eventually dies down and coalesces into 2: Corale. 3: Aria is the work’s heart and by far its longest section – a continuously unwinding line of melody with many parentheses and digressions that always return to the main idea. After its climax comes 4: Cadenza, whose improvisatory freedom returns eventually to the fluid music of the Prelude before leading into 5: Toccata. This works up a froth of motion on material new and old, culminating in 6: Corale, a big blow-up of its first soft appearance in section 2. Then 7: Sortie takes up fanfares introduced in the Toccata and combines them with the Corale in a blaze of sound which nonetheless is all implicit in the soft opening of the Prelude.
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer