• Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Sonata for Horn and Piano (1978)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Written for Barry Tuckwell

  • hornpf
  • 13 min

Programme Note

In 1976 I wrote a large scale work, Actaeon, for horn and orchestra, for Barry Tuckwell, who gave its first performance at the 1977 Proms. When Barry suggested I write a piece for horn and piano I decided to make it an "abstract" work as opposed to the narrative or story-telling nature of Actaeon, which nonetheless was equally dramatic and virtuosic in effect. My Sonata was written in London and New York in January/February 1978; it is in a number of sections which are played without a break.

As in my guitar concerto (1971) the work opens with a statement which is like a "crossroads" from which the music departs and to which it returns before setting out in a new direction. In the Horn Sonata this starting-point is a forceful declamato, opening with a unison middle G, the piano creating flurries of sound around the horn's declammation. After a development of this idea the solo horn leads into a spiky and rhythmically complex Molto vivo which has two outer sections framing a slow central section - Lento e ritmico. This is a sombre piece in which the horn broods against short, dense piano chords in a low register. The "crossroads" is again reached at the climax of the movement, leading to a very lively con brio. A more tranquil central section refers back to the earlier Lento e lirico. The tension slowly increases towards a wild cadenza for both instruments and suddenly the "crossroads" is reached for the last time, this coda opening and closing with the sonata's first note - middle G.

Although the form of the Sonata is complex in its interrelations between sections, the overall design is basically simple: a scherzo with a slow trio, a slow movement, a fast movement and a cadenza are framed by a declamatory prelude and postlude.