Sonata (1991)

for cello and piano

During the 1980’s, I developed a goal of writing sonatas or something similar for all the string instruments.  The Sonata for Cello and Piano was the last one I wrote, though I didn’t write serious multi-movement work for the double bass, oddly enough, until the 2000’s.

The Sonata for Cello and Piano is written in the Neo-Classical/Neo-Renaissance style that I used for most of the 1980’s.  It combines a spiraling expository process with more traditional forms.

The first movement is rather standard sonata form, complete with a repeat after the exposition.  The timing really needs the repeat, and I suggest taking it.  It is quite lyrical and delicate at times.

The second movement uses a modified binary form, but I have eliminated the traditional repeats.  The spiraling of the material is more obvious in this movement, especially in the first half, and it is more dramatic than the first movement.  The movement ends with a lyrical but dramatic mini-cadenza for the cello.  The third movement is effective when played attacca.

The-third movement is a spirited and virtuosic rondo.  It is rather equally balanced with busy solo passages for both the cello and piano.  The telescoping passage at the end brings it to a rousing conclusion.

The Sonata for Cello and Piano was first performed by Duo West, Ian Ginsberg, cello, and Sherry Lenich, piano, in Tempe, AZ in October of 2004.  They are the fine performers on these videos.

Sonata for Cello and Piano (1991) is available from American Composers Edition (composers.com) and may be ordered here.

Restless In Loops

For cello and looper

My publisher, the American Composers Alliance (ACA), has been funding in-home recordings of works from the ACA Catalogue. My good friend Sarah Walder, who has been stuck in the Netherlands since March, asked me to write her an unaccompanied piece for her upcoming recording. I wrote her an unaccompanied piece titled Restless In Place, however I also wanted to write her a piece using her Looper. She has recorded this second piece, Restless In Loops, for the ACA Shelter Music project.

She is very good with her looper and writes a lot of her own pieces using it. I decided to write a different version of the original piece rather than a brand new work. However, it turned out to be quite a bit different from the first version both musically, and in tone and mood. I have included a link to the original version (performed by NotePerformer) at the bottom of this post. Since both pieces were derived from the same recorded piano improvisation, I have included that piece as well.

Notes for Restless In Loops

I had written an unaccompanied piece, Cross Channel, for Sarah Walder in 2018 for a series of unaccompanied recitals she did in 2019.  She had presented a terrific performance, and it was a wonderful experience.  Then came the Covid Pandemic of 2020.  Sarah, who was commuting between the Netherlands and Arizona a couple times every year, was stuck in the Netherlands.  For much of the time she was also stuck in her apartment.  We would talk every month or two, and her frustration was quite evident if not unusual for the times.  Though retired, I was also feeling annoyed at not being able to perform at all.  I had recently written an unaccompanied violin work for Steven Moeckel and when I mentioned that plus the fact I was “beyond bored,” Sarah casually mentioned that she was also doing a recording, and another cello piece would be nice.  

So I have tried to write a piece that attempts to capture the useless anxiety we are all facing in the midst of these strange times.  It tries to capture the restlessness that comes from hunkering down for months on end.  As fond as I am of being by myself with time and space for creative endeavors, it can be too much of a good thing.  The piece for Sarah is the second I have done for a musician whose project is to make an unaccompanied recording.  Zoom projects and home recitals only provide so much satisfaction, and little if any financial reward.  But a musician is usually propelled primarily by inner fire and artistry, and a challenging project of this sort seems a logical and sanity-maintaining solution to having one’s entire profession shut down.

Most of my music is derived from keyboard improvisations and Restless In Place and Restless In Loops are not exceptions. though it has taken some adjustment and imagination to rework something conceived on the keyboard.  I have tried to work with a number of different rather stationary musical ideas, and then write music which tries to break those bonds.  It would be like trying to break out of a box, or push on the walls of a padded cell.  There is serious effort and resourcefulness, but the walls are solid.

Here is Restless In Place for unaccompanied cello (without looper) performed with NotePerformer

Below is the piano improvisation titled “Causes” from which both cello pieces derive.