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About this Piece

A lifelong resident of Vienna, Anton Heiller (1923–1979) was one of the most revered organist-composers of his generation. His active repertoire, which he performed in more than a thousand recitals during his lifetime, ranged from the pre-Bach generation of Buxtehude, Bruhns, and Tunder, through J.S. Bach and well into the 20th century. In Vienna, he was equally well known as a conductor and late in life was offered the post of conductor of the Vienna State Opera, which he declined. Few of his works for organ have a permanent place on recital programs; the sinister Tanz-Toccata is an exception. At the outset, a slithering melody is played above a dissonant accompaniment, specified by Heiller to be played on the very un-human-sounding vox humana with tremulant. A walking bass is set up in the pedal and leads to the central section, an off-kilter dance that borrows rhythmic gestures from Stravinsky and Messiaen. —Thomas Neenan