• Yehudi Wyner
  • Sonata (1954)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • piano
  • 20 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

In 1953, during my first year of residence at the American Academy in Rome I received an anonymous commission for the composition of a piano sonata. The commission alone was enough to get me going. The mysterious source of the commission enhanced the urgency to get the piece on its way. (Only in 1987 did I discover that it was my parents who were behind the commission!) At the time my basic esthetic persuasion was neoclassicism. Earlier, my work with baroque materials had yielded some lively and personal results but my interests were changing. I wanted to write a piece of substantial scale, utilizing and transforming conventional techniques of construction. My formal models were, above all, Beethoven and Haydn, but I needed also to absorb ongoing resonances from Stravinsky and the newly encountered sound images of Elliott Carter, especially as represented by his Cello Sonata. For the first movement, the formal layout of Beethoven's Pathetique, gave me a decisive outline. There, the introduction not only announces and introduces the discourse but also enlarges the scale of the movement by reappearing at the end of the exposition and again in the territory of the coda. A curious notion I developed was to expose the principal materials "sotto voce" while projecting transitional material in an explosive way. (An analogy in architecture come to mind: Frank Lloyd Wright’s soaring chimneys and sweeping eaves in his Tudor adaptations in Oak Park.) For the last movement I looked to Haydn for guidance. His rollicking rondos could be playfully hospitable to all kinds of material, from the high-minded to mere riff-raff. With the aid of rhythmic momentum, the recurrent refrains could give coherence to dissimilar and chaotic materials. Since the musical ideas I had assembled for the movement suggested a vaudeville, Haydn showed me how to organize things through the simple rondo principle. The serene Coda with which the Sonata concludes is another matter, however, a notion of apotheosis borrowed from Beethoven and Brahms. The slow movement is not so much a discrete unit as an introduction to the Rondo, as in Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata. As such it foreshadows the thematic material of the last movement.

-- Yehudi Wyner