4. Toccatina (extract Lifecycle) op.489d (1996)

Published by: Highbridge Music Ltd
Instrumentation: Piano
[Key to Abbreviations]
Duration: 1:33
Sheet Music Available
Instrumental / piano score for sale

Toccatina is is available singly as a booklet  here:

It is also one of the pieces in 'Lifeycle' a collection of 24 piano pieces by Howard Blake which is available for sale complete as a book, by enquiry to anna@annamenzies.com
Recordings Available
Lifecycle, piano music of imagination and reflection
Released: 2003
Recorded: 2002
Artists: William Chen (Piano)
Available from: ABC Classics (Australia) Amazon UK

1. Recorded by William Chen as one of the items on 'Lifecycle' ABC Classics. Available from Amazon

 2.Recorded as one of the works on the album 'WALKING IN THE AIR - THE MUSIC OF HOWARD BLAKE' performed by VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY and released on March 3rd 2014 on Decca Classics 478 6300 www.deccaclassics.com  www,vladimirashkenazy.com


In E major, composed in 1957 in Brighton.  Published 1996 as Number 4 of 'Lifecycle'. (Previously published as number 6 of Eight Character Pieces). Popular as a Grade 6 - 7 test-piece for piano exams and previously chosen for the ABRSM syllabus.

 'TOCCATINA' AND THE BEGINNINGS OF 'LIFECYCLE' [Note by the composer February 2017.]

'Back in 1957 I had won the Hastings Festival Scholarship as a pianist, a year in which my Brighton piano tutor Christine Pembridge made me practise technique as never before, working at studies of Cramer and Hanon and Chopin’s virtuoso Ballade no. 2. (It is said that he only used to play the simple F major tune and would miss out the fiendish A minor sections!) I remember thinking it would be fun to write a ‘cross-hand’ study, which is what [opus 489d] 'Toccatina' [/opus] is. I sketched it out roughly and put it aside. The key of E major made it easy to play since the LH picks out the on-beats of each triplet and the RH plays the 2nd and third note of the triplet on the white notes. The piece would be much harder if written in C major.  Chopin’s black-key study is not cross-hand but makes brilliant use of the geography of black keys – again it would be extremely difficult to play all on white notes. The black notes help to orientate. 'Toccatina' is therefore written in E major which makes very good use of this orientation factor and makes it quite easy to play – or at any rate easy to play much faster than in a less-suitable key.
After Ashkenazy’s fantastic all-Scriabin recital at the QEH in 1975 I talked to him backstage and he casually said something like: ‘why don’t you write some entertaining piano pieces?’ maybe thinking of the pieces Andre Previn had written for him. I was so excited by this idea that I went home that night and wrote the first three almost at one sitting: Prelude in B minor, Nocturne in B major and Impromptu in E minor. There I came to a halt and thought: This gives me a key formula for a huge work which is Major, Minor, drop a fifth to the next Major and Minor and one could thus traverse all 24 keys of the chromatic scale ending with F sharp major from which one would drop a fifth and recommence the whole cycle in B minor. Thus played it could go on being played forever! So where I was at number 3 the sequence would dictate that piece 4 must be in E major and this brought back into my mind the early unfinished cross-hand sketch. This time I worked at it and gave it a form and, having polished it, turned to number 5. I thought then: I have used something from past early sketches and maybe I can do the same for other pieces. I remembered a ‘Mazurka’ in A minor from 1970 and it dropped in perfectly. I completed what was first called ‘12 piano pieces’ and performed them in a recital on BBC Brighton soon afterwards.
The second collection of 12 pieces was not written until 1995 when I renamed the entire 24 [opus 489] ‘Lifecycle’ [/opus]. They were published by Faber Music but nothing much happened with them until the Shanghai-based pianist William Chen recorded the whole set in Sydney, Australia, issued on Australian Classic FM in an astoundingly good recording!
In 2013 Vladimir Ashkenazy would record eight of the pieces. He uncannily sensed the pieces I had specifically written for him, in general avoiding ‘arrangements not specifically written for the piano’. His rendition of 'Toccatina' is quite a lot different from William Chen’s, but everything he plays he ‘makes his own’ – the secret of all great performers.'


3rd March 2014 Vladimir Ashkenazy and Vovka Ashkenazy, DECCA RELEASE MARCH 3RD 2014

In 2011 Howard wrote the test-piece for The Hong Kong International Piano Competition which he attended. The President of the jury was Vladimir Ashkenazy who liked the work (Speech after long silence) and expressed his desire to record an album of Howard's piano music. This took place between March and July 2013. The repertoire includes two works for two pianos in which he is joined by his son Vovka and concert performances of these works were given in Lugano for RSI on 9th March 2013 just prior to the recordings. The completed 80-minute album also presents a wide selection of Howard Blake's solo pieces for piano performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy himself.  The completed album will be released by Decca on March 3rd 2014. The title track of the album is a solo piano version of 'Walking in the air' of which a single for download was issued as a pre-release for download on December 2nd 2013.

19th May 2013 Piano recital: Beethoven,Medtner,Schumann,Prokofiev,Chopin and Blake, St.James's Theatre Studio, 12 Palace Street, London SW1 4.00 pm

Three Blake pieces to be played by the Russian pianist Evgenia Startseva - notable for her performances partnering Maxim Vengerov.

Related Works

'*LIFECYCLE' op.489 (1996) (Audio Sample Available)
A sequence of 24 pieces for the piano - the complete 77 page album can be purchased by mail order

Related Autobiography Chapters


[Back to top]