COMPOSER 1945–2013

Opus 83

Sonatine d’Amour (1987)

for Harpsichord

  • Le Troubadour
  • La Dame

Duration: 9 min.

Dedication: to Barbara Harbach

Recording: MSR Classics MS1443

Premiere: 1989; B. Harbach; Atlanta, GA

Performance materials available from the publisher.

I have always felt a special sensuous vibrancy in the sound of the harpsichord, something rather more erotic than the instrument is usually given credit for—though I think at least one Baroque master, Couperin, knew about it. When I wrote my Musique de Clavecin in 1974, I had no intended performer and the work was not played for some 13 years until Barbara Harbach performed and recorded it. When Barbara asked me to write a new work, I responded with eagerness and fluency. As the earlier work was full of Freudian darkness and cathartic intensity, I set about to provide a sibling for it…similarly imbued with passionate or lascivious feelings, but elegant, full of ardor and even warmth. At the same period, I was busy doing intense listening and research in my preparations to teach ethnomusicology for the first time, and I think some of the qualities of Sonatine d’Amour relate to this. Indeed, I fleetingly considered writing the piece for the oud, the marvelous, middle-Eastern predecessor of the lute.

The first movement should sound rhythmically rather free, although it is actually very tightly notated; a measure that sounds almost improvised may be in a meter like 15/16 or 11/8. There are plenty of major-minor conflicts, arpeggiated chords, and melodic bursts or rushes alternating with moments of rest. The second movement moves in a more regular gait and may be thought of as a graceful, flirtatious dance. To my ears, the two suggest male and female personas, or at least our stylized stereotypes thereof: I don’t know if listeners will agree, but I have sub-titled the movements accordingly. (Notes by Arnold Rosner)