While a good deal of my music tends on some level to be programmatic, I wanted this sonata,
like my earlier one for viola and piano, to express whatever it had to say in purely musical terms,
finding in this approach a refreshing challenge. To my ear, the common thread across the
sonata's three contrasting movements is an exploration of rhythm. In the first (Breathless,
dramatic), the layering of conflicting metres, unified by a quick pulse, along with
fragmentation, variation and imitation of thematic material, suggest the psychological state of a
mind racing when confronted with a big decision. A dance-like central section, and the coda's
shift to the tonic major, offer limited relief. The second movement (Adagio espressivo), a lyrical
outpouring punctuated by agitated outbursts (recollections of past troubles?), includes nonmetred
passages and, in the reprise, continually varying rhythmic figuration in the
accompaniment. I had the most fun writing the concise and zany finale (Lively, playful), a
percussive scherzo whose mischievous phrasing and rhetoric is underscored by strumming and
Subtle motivic connections among movements abound. The work's stormy introduction outlines
an ascending pentatonic minor scale; the finale's principal theme, mirror-like, traces a
descending pentatonic major scale. The insistent, rising minor third that characterizes the slow
movement's emotive explosions recalls the first movementís passionate theme (introduced by
the cello), itself derived from the pentatonic minor scale's incipit. The interval of a third likewise
plays an important role in the finale.
The cellist Denise Djokic gave the world premieres of two of my early chamber works, including
the Piano Trio, in consecutive years at Ottawa Chamberfest (2004-05). Only recently did we
contemplate another collaboration, the fruit of which is this sonata she and her longtime duo
partner, the pianist David Jalbert, commissioned with the generous support of Scotia Festival of
Music. This marvelous musical duo—on their several recordings Jalbert complements Djokic's
purity of tone, smoldering intensity and precision, with warmth, fluidity and lucidity—was a
source of inspiration.
May 28, 2019—Denise Djokic & David Jalbert, Scotia Festival of Music,
Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre (Halifax, NS)
"[Rival's] cello sonata held a remarkable unity; the lyrical passages arriving with beauty and soaring joy while the musical direction flowed with ease. Djokic and Jalbert had a solid canvas on which to create rich tone and spacious effects without undue intensity."
—Margot Aldrich, Sound Views, May 30, 2019
Score Perusal &
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