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Sonata '21 (2020-2021)

composed December 2020-February 2021

22 minutes

Commissioned by and dedicated to Dr. Nicholas Phillips


Dr. Nicholas Phillips, piano - August 22, 2021


Program Note:

When it came time to write a piano sonata, I asked myself 'What would I want to say with a piano sonata in the 21st century?'. It's a tried and true form that boasts many masterworks by the great composers, including essential pieces by Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Rachmaninoff. It was a bit of a daunting project at first as I questioned what I had to add to the plethora of legendary compositions already. As a pianist myself, my style of playing is focused on bringing the best sound out of the piano by placing emphasis on the resonance of the individual tones. Thus, the first movement is based around the key of A, specifically the middle A, which is the home base of the 440 tuning note with special emphasis and accents on specific tones in the A Major scale. Of course, I pay homage to the romantic sonatas with an expansive and expressive middle section in F sharp minor. The second movement is a sort of funeral march, but the music takes a minimalist turn in the second section, and looks back the 2nd movements of Beethoven in the next (with special ornamentation in like manner). The last movement is a homage to my time spent as as a percussionist, in which my favorite musical technique to explore was hemiolas (multiple rhythms layered on top of one another). Thus, we get the name '5 with 4' and '3 with 2', which make for very interesting rhythmic combinations. Here, the player is at their most virtuosic, in an almost moto perpetuo style. 


So what did I want to say with a piano sonata in the 21st century? Simply put, one can utilize classic compositional techniques of the master composers and still create interesting music that is very timely, and still sounds new at the same time.

And finally, the title"Sonata' 21" can refer to 2 things:

1. an indication that I completed this piece in the year 2021 and 2. it's a sonata from the 21st century.

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