for Izumi Tateno

Commissioned by the Izumi Tateno Fund for the Left Hand Library 

 

for piano left hand
Premiere:
Duration: ca. 28 minutes

 

I   Introduction – Vivo (ca. 13')
II Andante malinconico (ca. 4'30'')
III Quasi Fantasia (ca. 10'05'')

 

My Sonata for piano left hand is in three movements. In terms of inspiration, it shares a similar concept to L’homme sans avenir op. 22k quater for piano four hands, written in 2015/2016. This concept is based on the juxtaposition between sounds requiring the use of the pedal and sounds that are performed without pedal, and the intensification of the contrast between the two through the use of dynamic accents. Inspired by the vitality of the sonatas by Prokofiev and Bartók, most of the motivic structures and musical ideas emerge, so to speak, between moments that attain a secretive quality due to continuous pedalling. Boththe main and the secondary ideas of the first movement are thus preceded by introductory layers of sound created through the use of pedal, and whose extreme contrasts of pitch rapidly diminish and are finally contained within the space of a few five-note chords. Literal analogies and sequences determine the progress of the first movement, which in other respects is structured according to the traditional sonata form. The dimensions of the movement reflect those of the great classical sonatas, and especially those of Beethoven. At the same time, there are differences in the way the movement unfolds, as well as in the emphasis placed on a piquant tone quality. These two distinctive features dominate the musical process, and become ever more important throughout the course of the movement.

In the main theme of the first movement, the use of the piano's entire tonal range through wide leaps that are rhythmically determined is contrasted with small interludes performed within a limited tonal range but whose main task is to always return to the vastness of the original soundscape. The secondary theme, dominated by the interval of a third, is more intimate and evolves out of a motive that is developed sequentially and is presented in ever-changing harmonic guises.

In order to ensure that the movement did not become too long, I decided to streamline the development and the recapitulation. This was achieved by having the development deal exclusively with the main theme, while the recapitulation concentrated on the secondary theme. Moreover, the recapitulation itself dissolves in a constantly transforming and accelerating gesture comprised of three chords. This gesture serves both as the main motive for the coda and as a reminiscence of the main theme, before it also dissolves in a final sound colored by the use of the pedal.

The great arc extending through this last formal unit over the entire first movement finds a parallel in the last movement, which is also framed by large, fully pedalled figures. Here, however, the emphasis is not on directional change, but rather on ascending and descending harmonic structures. It is these structures that determine the course of the last movement.

These great waves contrast with a series of small-scale structures with a tense rhythmic profile and recognizable references to a march or a Habanera. This layout is reminiscent of rondo form, which oftentimes provides the formal edifice of the final movement in classical sonatas of the 18th and 19th centuries. However, the interweaving of clearly structured secondary themes into the general stylistic profile of the waves is also reminiscent of a fantasia—hence my decision to give this movement the title »Quasi Fantasia.« Moreover, a cadenza-like section attempts to initiate a new approach within the general formal concept of the movement, in the manner of a caesura. This method is also used at the conclusion of the second movement, although here it appears within the context of a transition to the last movement, which follows without a break. In this »Andante malinconico,« open fifths and fourths form the constantly interrupted new beginning of an extended melodic line in two voices.

My aim was to determine the flow of the piece through a harmonic voice leading that permeated all levels of the compositional process. At the same time, I did not want to rob the piece of all elements of surprise. This is why I tried to disguise the five-note chords that form the harmonic structure through a process of fragmentation. Using sonata form helped me to endow the harmonic processes with recognizable structures.

This is the first of my compositions that I called a sonata. As such, it is a tribute to the great legacy of a formal concept that was strongly influenced by Beethoven's creative urge, and whose power continued to influence composers in the 20th century—evidenced, for example, in the aforementioned sonatas by Bartók and Prokofiev. My naive, unpublished early attempts in this field (which I discarded long time ago) have repeatedly led me to grapple with this form which I find extremely fascinating. This fascination stems from the fact that, while sonata form contains both simple and complex repetitive structures within itself, it also allows unimaginable possibilities of creative freedom. It is precisely for this reason that sonata form, in my opinion, will continue to offer a wide scope for new compositions in the future, even if the original harmonic framework may no longer be relevant and new works do not share tonal and rhythmic elements with sonatas of the past. Perhaps we will also witness more imaginative terminology rather than the simple designation »sonata.« For me, therefore, the confrontation with a seemingly obsolete form is not a confrontation with the past. Instead, I see it as an always fascinating and exciting possibility to focus on certain creative principles in a form that is also comprehensible to outsiders.