Sonata for English Horn and Piano

  • Genre
  • Commissioned by/written for
    Leslie Michelic
  • Year completed
  • Year revised
  • Timing
  • Catalog number
No items found.
  • copies sold
  • known performances
  • General notes
No media available.
No events scheduled.
No reviews.

I wrote my Sonata for English Horn and Piano between March 20, 2020 and the following April 1st. It comprises the second of a pair of sonatas I wrote for longtime friends of my wife and me, Matthew and Leslie Michelic, who are active in the music scene of Appleton, Wisconsin, and of Lawrence University, where Matthew teaches. The present work immediately followed a Sonata for Viola and Piano that I wrote for Matt, and since I’d already written some years ago an Oboe Sonata, I elected to write one for English horn, also Leslie’s instrument, in my on-going series to write a sonata for every major instrument of the orchestra. Given the dearth of sonatas for English horn, and (as far as I know) no extent examples of such a sonata in Romantic style, I decided to forego my usual “free tonality” as the means of expression for this sonata. Instead, I engaged in a thought experiment: “What kind of piece might I have written had I been born around 1875 instead of 1950?” The present sonata is the result of that quest, and is not part of my “After” series since I have consciously imitated no prior composer. However, the listener will undoubtedly hear influences from other earlier composers, even as I do, since knowledge and memories of their music is impossible to excise completely from my mind. Despite this, I believe the Sonata to be in an individual style of late Romanticism. Since the Michelics share my Christian faith, I composed the current work for Leslie, as I had the sonata for Matt, on a Christian theme. In this work, the theme was that of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. I had thought of this imagery in relationship to this work because of the slight resemblance of the sound of the English horn to a cooing of a dove (and the reader may recall the dove-like image that descended during that event). According to the gospel accounts of this event, John heralded the way for the Messiah by declaring to the people that one was coming whose sandals he was unworthy to loosen. I’ve attempted to portray John’s manifest humility in the first movement, which is gentle rather than assertive in style. The second movement, a light-hearted scherzo, seeks to represent John’s reluctance to baptize Jesus as the latter had requested. John responded that actually he should be baptized by his master, but was told by Jesus that it must be done to “fulfill all righteousness.” Thus this movement is not one of a portrayal of antagonism, but that of incredulity on the part of John, who nevertheless accedes to the request. The third movement, a slow and meditative movement indicative of the sober quality of Jesus’ mission in our world, begins with the same descending motive that is heard several times in the first movement (reiterated because of the subtitle of the work, The Dove Descending). It portrays the actual baptism of the Son of God, including a climactic point wherein a line in the English horn is presented more-or-less in the speech pattern of the phrase, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” heard by John at the moment of Jesus’ baptism, and also attended by a dove-like image that descended from heaven. This phrase is heard three times to suggest the Trinity, all the members of which are present in this scenario.

No items found.