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Sonata for Viola & Piano

Instrumentation: viola, piano
Duration: 18:00
Year Composed: 2015
Commissioner: Charles Pilon & Jeremy Spurgeon,
with the generous support of the
Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
  1. Turbulent, driving.
  2. Fantasy. Slow & free.
  3. Presto vivo

Dedicated to Charles Pilon & Jeremy Spurgeon.


Complete Audio

I. Turbulent, driving

II. Fantasy. Slow & free

III. Presto vivo


Complete Video

I. Turbulent, driving

Charles Pilon (va), Jeremy Spurgeon (pno)
Edmonton, AB
November 2, 2015
II. Fantasy. Slow & free

Charles Pilon (va), Jeremy Spurgeon (pno)
Edmonton, AB
November 2, 2015
III. Presto vivo

Charles Pilon (va), Jeremy Spurgeon (pno)
Edmonton, AB
November 2, 2015

Program Notes

From the outset I planned to adhere to the standard three-movement Classical design, fast-slow-fast. I also wanted to explore the violaís more optimistic hues—warmth, lyricism, wit—and not just its defining expressionistic and meditative qualities. Finally, I was keen on treating the piano as an equal partner. As it happens, I started with the second movement, most of which was written while lazily reclining on a rock in the sun at the edge of a lake in Frontenac Park, near Kingston, Ontario. There is no program, but the circumstance of its creation may explain the floating sense of metre; fluttering gestures, especially in the piano, accelerating and decelerating out of time; passages of lyrical warmth; and the ecstatic climax.

The first movement, in B-flat minor, acknowledges tradition in several ways: by adopting sonata form, in its reliance on a harmonic language that frequently bears the imprint of late nineteenth-century romanticism, and through allusion. The latter involves a pair of "reminiscences", utterances in the Classical style that appear in lieu of a development section. The retransition recovers the driving piano rhythm of the stormy principle theme while foreshadowing the rising melody with which the viola opens the second movement. The recapitulation ushers in a wind of optimism, though one that proves fleeting.

The brief finale takes the dotted rhythm with which the slow movement concludes as fodder for a kaleidoscopic romp whose relentless drive includes yet a third Classical reminiscence, this time one that begins with an actual quotation of Beethovenís Pastoral Symphony. The movement ends with a jubilant canon and a thunderous close in B-flat.

Knowing that the premiere would take place at Edmontonís All Saintsí Cathedral encouraged me to emphasize the distinct sonority of the cathedralís nine-foot Steigerman concert grand from 1959, an instrument that sings with a wonderful richness and clarity, especially in its lower register. Mr. Spurgeon quips that it also possesses the best sounding low D-flat (two octaves below middle C) in the entire city. I did not let that fact escape me.

—R.R.


Performances

  • Nov 2, 2015—Charles Pilon & Jeremy Spurgeon, All Saints' Cathedral (Edmonton, AB)

Reviews


Score Perusal & Parts Rental

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