Toccata for Percussion Instruments (Chávez)

The Toccata for Percussion Instruments (1942), was written by the twentieth-century Mexican composerCarlos Chávez. It is among his most popular compositions.[1] The composition is written for six musicians playing a number of percussion instruments.

Toccata for Percussion Instruments
by Carlos Chávez

Portrait of Carlos Chávez by Carl van Vechten (1937)
Composed 1942 (1942)
Movements 3
Premiere
Date October 31, 1947
Conductor Eduardo Hernández Moncada
Performers Members of the orchestra of the Conservatorio Nacional de Música

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Chávez was approached in the 1930s by the avant-garde composer John Cage, who asked whether Chávez could compose a piece for the percussion ensemble that was touring with Cage. The 12-minute piece was completed in 1942, in time for Cage’s West Coast tour.[2] However, the ensemble was unable to perform the piece, due to the challenging sustained drum rolls in the opening measures.[3] The Toccata was eventually premiered in 1948 by the Orquesta Sinfónica de México, the orchestra which Chávez founded and conducted.[2]Eduardo Hernández Moncada, however, had already conducted a premiere on October 31, 1947, with members of the orchestra of the National Conservatory.[4][5][contradictory]

In 1952 Xavier Francis choreographed the Toccata for the Academia de la Danza Mexicana, under the title Tóxcatl. Scenery and costumes were by Miguel Covarrubias, and the principal dancers were Xavier Francis, Raquel Gutiérrez, and Elena Noriega. The title refers to one of the eighteen fixed festivals of the Aztec calendar, celebrated in the fifth month of each year in honor of Tezcatlipoca (the “smoking mirror” or “mirror of fire”).[6]

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