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Papandopulo, Boris: Toccata cromatica for organ

Toccata cromatica for organ
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For Boris Papandopulo organ was an obvious choice in his vocal-instrumental pieces of a predominantly sacral theme. Similar liturgical references could also be found in two shorter pieces for organ solo: his first known organ piece the Prelude for Organ, Op. 70 was composed in Split on Christmas 1936, while the much later Prelude for Organ (actually his last organ piece composed in Tribunj on 18 August 1990, only a year before his death), quotes an old Croatian Christmas carol At That Time of Year (U to vrijeme godišta). Unlike these two miniatures composed in a rather traditional way, organ works conceived during a shorter but more intense two-year period in 1976 and 1977 are free from any liturgical connotations, thus illustrating much more clearly Papandopulo’s versatile approach to the organ sound.
Papandopulo’s intense period of composing for organ began with the piece Per Aspera Ad Astra for organ and large symphony orchestra, composed in Opatija between 28 September and 20 October 1976, and first performed on 10 December 1976 at the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall on the occasion of composer’s 70th birthday. The piece which highlights organ in its solo role is dedicated to the conductor Mladen Bašić, who first performed the piece with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra while Anđelko Klobučar, organist of the Zagreb Cathedral, performed the organ part. 
The obviously successful collaboration with Klobučar resulted in another piece, Toccata Cromatica that Papandopulo composed on 18 August 1977 and dedicated to “my friend Anđelko Klobučar”, who first performed the piece on 7 November 1977 at the Southwark Cathedral (UK). Further signs of mutual respect could be seen indirectly through repeated performances of Toccata Cromatica that Klobučar included in his concert repertoire, as well as directly in Papandopulo’s handwritten dedication on the printed edition of Passacaglia, his third significant organ work, first performed in Düsseldorf on 13 September 1977 at the Internationale Orgeltage and published in Cologne in 1978 by the Musikverlag Hans Gerig. Recently, a printed copy of the score of Passacaglia was found among Anđelko Klobučar’s belongings and it contained a dedication on the back of the cover written in the composer’s calligraphy: “To my dear Anđelko, / the first performer of my / “Toccata Cromatica” / Yours faithfully / Boris / In Opatija, 10 November 1978.” It seems that a very good understanding between Boris Papandopulo as a composer and Anđelko Klobučar as his interpreter has undoubtedly resulted in one of the most interesting opuses in the Croatian organ music of the 20th century.
Without further detailed analysis, it should be noted that all three organ works from the composer’s mature period contain several common elements: rich chromatic language with a latent tendency towards dodecaphony, along with an insistence on a single musical idea that becomes the motto of the whole piece. Thus, Per Aspera Ad Astra clearly uses a twelve-tone series, while Passacaglia displays a similar procedure in which the initial B–A–C–H motif triggers its twelve-tone theme. Toccata Cromatica is perhaps the most relaxed in this regard: the basic chromatic idea that only distantly evokes a twelve-tone series becomes the motto of the entire piece whose free musical form is conceived in a collage-like manner as a set of variations on the presented chromatic theme. There is also a noticeable deviation from this thematic element in favor of characteristically playing gestures (from simple prelude-like figures to those typical for solo cadences), polyphonic moments, as well as pseudo quotations of folk motifs resulting in a skillful play of inexhaustible composer’s inventiveness, which reaches its apotheosis in the concluding gesture of C major.
Pavao Mašić
Cantus Ltd, 2019.
Edition No: Can.200-9446
ISMN 979-0-801349-44-6