Piano Sonata No. 1 (solo piano)
by Tom Henry (2006)
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The Piano Sonata was begun during a short but creative period, the summer of 2005-2006, which followed my years of study with the composer Lawrence Whiffin. Like the other works begun during this period (a Song Cycle on Rilke's The Book of Images, and Passage for Strings), the Piano Sonata was a musical response to one aspect of the European classical musical tradition that I had studied during those years, in this case the Second Viennese School and Serialism.
While my musical responses in the other works were lyrical and passionate, in the Piano Sonata they arose like implacable, black granite, full of a dark, painful tension. The work seems to me now to be an unconscious attempt to flee the confines of serialism, with its inner rigour that is in turns seductive and confining to a composer; the three movements reflect a gradual progression towards a more tonal utterance, eventually giving way to waves of emotion, like grief.
The entire work is derived from a small number of gestures, which can be heard in the opening movement, Theme. The gestures alternate with islands of silence, but build gradually until they exhaust themselves and end with a spiralling crescendo and accelerando.
The Variations explore the melodic and harmonic possibilities raised by the opening material, to create an uneasy succession of 'landscapes' or 'environments', in which stable harmonic structures are challenged by foreign, dissonant tones.
The first two movements together form one large question, which is answered by the Finale - Moto Perpetuo. The 'answer' (and resolution) is provided, firstly by texture (a continual stream of quavers) but also by harmony; tonal areas which were only dimly alluded to in the opening movements here take residence; a gradual tendency towards a clear tonal area provides the final destination for the listener.
Duration: 14 min.
Contents note: I. Theme (Quasi recitativo: molto drammatico, con rubato) -- II. Variations (1. Poco agitato, 2. Molto tranquillo, con rubato, 3. Molto calmo e ritmato (quasi una Habanera), 4. Poco agitato, 5. Quasi recitativo, con rubato, 6. Poco giocoso, 7. Violento, 8. Maestoso, 9. Poco giocoso - recitativo, 10. Martiale, molto ritmato - recitativo -- III. Moto perpetuo (Hesitant at first, then flowing).
Dedication note: Dedicated to Michael Kieran Harvey
First performance: by Michael Kieran Harvey — 28 May 11. ASTRA Chamber Music Society concert, 11th Hour Theatre, Fitzroy, Melbourne
Finalist in the American Liszt Society 2011 Bicentennial Composition Competition.
- Has as subject/About: Sonatas
Performances of this work
28 May 11: ASTRA Chamber Music Society concert, 11th Hour Theatre, Fitzroy, Melbourne. Featuring Michael Kieran Harvey.
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