COMPOSER 1945–2013

Opus 41

Sonata No. 1 for Cello and Piano (1968, rev. 1977)

for Cello and Piano

  • Adagio espressivo
  • Fuga: Barbaro
  • Moderato misterioso e religioso

Duration: 17 min.

Recording: Albany TROY163

Premiere: 1978; M. Neuman; R. Elibay; Bronx Museum

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Sonata No. 1 for Cello and Piano was written in the summer of 1968, during my doctoral studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo. At that institution in those days, post-Webernian and avant-garde composition reigned supreme, despite a strong challenge from the first performance of Terry Riley’s In C. My more neo-romantic stuff was an embarrassment to all concerned, but that could hardly stop me from writing it.

Without any conscious self-denial, I used virtually no special effects in the sonata. There is absolutely no pizzicato, one usage of the mute, and only a few double stops. The first movement builds short motivic phrases with consonant harmonization, creating some fairly stark intensity.

These tensions more fully detonate in the fugal second movement, which is extremely difficult for both players. There are several contrapuntal expositions and episodes, culminating in a cross-rhythmic augmentation, not unlike certain 15th century Netherlander examples in technique, but very different in tonal effect.

The third movement is religious in character and modal in style, but it too, has climactic use of mensuration, where 7/8 material is pitted against the otherwise 7/16 meter.

When the work was first performed the second movement not only presented prodigious technical difficulty but contrasted too much with its neighbors; it was therefore revised extensively in 1977 with both slow movements left entirely intact.

(Notes by Arnold Rosner)