The Bach Harpsichord in the Berlin Musical Instrument Museum.

The Toccatas for Keyboard, BWV 910–916, are seven pieces for clavier written by Johann Sebastian Bach. Although the pieces were not originally organized into a collection by Bach himself (as were most of his other keyboard works, such as the Well Tempered Clavier and the English Suites), the pieces share many similarities, and are frequently grouped and performed together under a collective title.[1]


The toccatas represent Bach's earliest keyboard compositions known under a collective title.[1] The earliest sources of the BWV 910, 911 and 916 toccatas appear in the Andreas-Bach Book,[2] an important collection of keyboard and organ manuscripts of various composers compiled by Bach's oldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach between 1707 and 1713. An early version of the BWV 912 (known as the BWV 912a) also exists in another collection compiled by Johann Christoph Bach known as the "Möller manuscript", from around 1703 to 1707.[3] This indicates that most of these works originated no later than Bach's early Weimar years, though the early northern-German style indicates possible Arnstadt origin.


The works bear an early northern-German influence,[2] with distinct contrasting sections and fugal passages ingrained into the rhapsodic material, as opposed to the more familiar, two-movement prelude and fugue format. Other early Bach works that follow this sectional, Buxtehude-influenced format include the Prelude (Toccata) and Fugue in E major, BWV 566,[4] and Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 551.[5]

Though the specific instrumentation is not given for any of the works, they are all strictly manualiter, as none of them call for pedal parts.[1] Like Bach's other clavier works, these toccatas are frequently performed on the piano. Because of some of the organ-like textures, the pieces are sometimes performed on the organ.[6] In fact, the opening motifs of the BWV 912, 914 and 916 toccatas resemble the ones on the BWV 532,[7] 534[8] and 541[9] organ preludes respectively.

The Seven Toccatas

The beginning of the BWV 910 F♯ minor Toccata - from the Andreas Bach Book, in the hand of Johann Christoph Bach.


  1. ^ a b c Schulenberg 2006, 97.
  2. ^ a b Schulenberg 2006, 98.
  3. ^ Schulenberg 2006, 7.
  4. ^ Williams 2003, 160.
  5. ^ Williams 2003, 131.
  6. ^ Schulenberg 2006, 99.
  7. ^ Williams 2003, 41.
  8. ^ Williams 2003, 49.
  9. ^ Williams 2003, 82.

Work cited