written for Lucas Hopkins and Liz Ames
premiered May 2015, Stamps Auditorium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
To give any piece the title “Sonata” is itself a daunting proposition, to say nothing of writing it. Not only is there the grand tradition of works bearing that name attached to a very particular strain of formal construction, but the sheer abstraction of the title hearkens back to the classical and neo-classical periods (especially juxtaposed with today’s story– or description-driven compositional world).
That being said, this work should not be viewed as a resurrection of any past style or form. Indeed, the word sonata is here being used in the general sense it has come to mean for many recent composers—a substantial work comprised of any number of integrally related movements for a solo instrument and accompaniment (usually, piano). It should be noted that although this work is in three parts, they are played without pause, and a significant amount of material is shared between them, and the last movement ends with quite clear reference to the ending of the first.
As implied earlier, there is no particular overarching story or otherwise extramusical guidance to the work, beyond the goal to craft a piece demanding both virtuosity and expression from both saxophonist and pianist (in this piece, although the saxophone can generally be called the principle voice, I consider the piano to be of such importance that I would hesitate to call it any sort of “accompaniment”). The first movement, scherzo, presents all the material for the piece in a restless, dance-like character. The cadenza is a timeless meditation for the solo saxophone, with a little piano material at the beginning and end. After a short lyric introduction, the finale sets of an aggressive, percussive piano motive that drives the work relentlessly towards its exhausted close.
This piece was started in Fall 2013 and completed in Spring 2014, during my studies with Professor Bright Sheng at the University of Michigan. A complete performance should run a little less than twenty minutes.