“Toccata and Lament” was composed on commission in 2008 to inaugurate the large new organ in the Christ Church Cathedral, Rochester, NY, USA. This instrument is a detailed reconstruction of a late Baroque organ of 1776 from Vilnius in Lithuania. The point of departure – a clash of contrasting eras and musical cultures on two continents – already bodes excitement.
Martin Herchenröder, a composer and professor of music theory, has incorporated these contrasts in his roughly eight-minute composition. The result is a musical idiom of rare distinction, universal in its musical resources and alternating between tonal triads and extremely dissonant clusters. The heart of the piece is a dirge which, using the Baroque doctrine of the affections, relates to Eastern European cultural history in and around Vilnius, a history marked by the predations of 20th-Century war.