Sonata for Violoncello and Piano


Sonata for Violoncello and Piano


Violoncello and Piano (2017)

Download Score and Part
  • Premiere: 27 July 2017 / Dunlop Pavilion / The Wintergreen Music Festival / Sarah Kapps, cello / Peter Marshall, piano

  • Instrumentation:

  • Duration: 20'

  • Dedication: Commissioned by the Wintergreen Music Festival for Sarah Kapps and Peter Marshall, 2017

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The first movement, “Alla danza tedesca,” is a traditional sonata allegro movement featuring two contrasting themes. The first is an essay in alternating groups of three and four. Either it is an ancient courtly dance, or a game of chess three thousand years ago. The second theme is a brassy, long-lined heraldic fanfare around which purl wreathes of running thirty-second notes. The development section culminates in the second theme’s transformation into an accompaniment figure, over which the cello plays a tune I first rolled out for the finale of my children’s opera “Little Nemo in Slumberland.” The recapitulation takes us back to the ancient world of the first theme.

The second movement, “Tempo di ‘Gymnopédie,” returns to the imaginary ancient world; it explores a repeated ground base, over which a sad little Pierrot-esque tune unfolds several times before ending quizzically.

The third movement, “Allegro assai” is a nasty, aggressive, technically-challenging little rondo in which a synthetic scale-based set of conflicting ostinatos are cross-cut with an unhinged, obsessively-modulating chorale. I imagine it taking place in a narcissist’s rifled, empty tomb.

Based on the tune of the song “quiet nectar” from my 2015 song cycle jaik’s songs, the last movement, “Moderato con moto,” takes place not in an ancient or abstract world but in the comforting / yearning / unsettling world of my youth in 1970s suburbia. 

The sonata is dedicated to my admired friends violoncellist Sarah Kapps and pianist Peter Marshall, partners both in art and in life. It was commissioned by, and was premièred by the duo, as part of the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival in Wintergreen, Virginia, in July 2017.

  1. Alla danza tedesca

  2. Tempo di ‘Gymnopédie

  3. Allegro assai

  4. quiet nectar

Banner picture credit: a composer and his Muses, pianist Peter Marshall and violoncellist Sarah Kapps, during a rehearsal for the sonata’s premiere at the Wintergreen Festival in 2017.