Sonata after Poulenc (Sonate d‘après Poulenc)

for Clarinet and Piano

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  • Commissioned by/written for
    Claude Delangle
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  • Year revised
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Sonata after Poulenc was written for Claude Delangle, professor of saxophone at the Paris Conservatoire. Delangle, one of the world's best-known saxophonists, and one who has performed and recorded widely throughout the world, took up an interest in my Concerto after Glière, and has played it numerous times in several countries, more than any other saxophonist to date. Grateful for this exposure, I approached Delangle at the World Saxophone Congress in 2012 in Scotland, and asked him if he would like me to write him a work, and if so what kind of a piece he would prefer. Delangle's initial response was a Sonata after Debussy, but before I could begin writing that work, he decided that since 2013 was the centennial year of Francis Poulenc, he would like a work in the style of that composer. I set to work on the piece in January, 2013, but the work that I was writing quickly began to go in a different direction from what I intended. So, I let that work take its course, and it became my Ragtime Sonata after Joplin, which I then dedicated to Otis and Haruko Murphy. I subsequently spent a few hours listening to all of Poulenc's chamber music so that I could refresh my memory on this composer's style. Immediately thereafter, on February 11, 2013, I began work on Professor Delangle's sonata. The piece came quickly to me, and I finished it a few days later, on the 16th of that month. A couple years later, I decided that the piece would work equally well on clarinet. Normally, I restrict my “After” pieces to imitating composers who never wrote a work for a particular instrument, and Poulenc’s own Sonata for Clarinet and Piano is widely admired and performed. Thus, I’d felt safe in initially writing a saxophone sonata in his style. The present clarinet version of this work, then, is not intended to compete with the master’s own clarinet sonata, and may be considered as merely something like a footnote to it. The piece seeks to capture Poulenc's ebullient spirit, and his gift for melody and typically French harmonies. My own compositional voice peeks through at certain points, and I didn't worry too much about those spots, simply concentrating on producing a piece that would be both fun to play and to listen to. I should mention that to date there are 16 works in my “After” series, imitating such diverse composers as Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, Paganini, Khachaturian, Vierne, and others, but these form a small minority of my total mature output that presently consists of 135 works, the other works composed in various contemporary styles ranging from freely-tonal to rather avant-garde.

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