for Piano Four-Hands
Commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest and the La Jolla Music Society for Summerfest,
with the generous support of the CMNW Commissioning Fund
Duration: 14 Minutes
1. Intrada: Un poco inquieto
2. Buck and Wing: Allegro vivace
3. Pastorale: Molto semplice
One of the great pleasures of my youth was playing piano four-hands with my friends,
so it was with equal pleasure that I received the rather unusual, if not anachronistic,
request from Chamber Music Northwest to write a piece for the piano duet team of Anna
Polonsky and Orion Weiss.
When two people have to share a single instrument, there is a sudden shift in the way
one handles its sonority -- musical space broadens and the approach to the sound
necessarily has to take into account all registers nearly equally. In the case of my sonata,
I suppose that one could say that I have gone a rather "symphonic" route. The first
movement is rather unsettled in its mood, opening with an opposition of a low, brooding
theme contrasted by a high, livelier one. The opposition intensifies, leading to a calmer
interlude before the opening conflict is taken up again.
As the title "Buck and Wing" openly acknowledges, the second movement finds its roots
in the breathless, non-stop energy of old movie musicals, and the piano duet medium
naturally lends itself to the image of dancers trading off steps with each other.
For the finale, the mood becomes calm again in a four-voice fugue built on quiet, almost
bucolic theme. Low, dark chords occasionally recall some of the brooding of the first
movement, but in the end the fugue theme wins out in a rhythmically compressed
version perhaps evoking the tintinnabulation of bells.