Sonata, "Ordo salutis"

for Cello and Piano

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  • Commissioned by/written for
    Cole Tutino
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  • Year revised
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Sonata for Cello and Piano, "Ordo salutis," was written in 16 days during the period from November 11th through December 25th of 2013. It was written for Cole Tutino, a dedicated Christian cellist whom I had gotten to know through our mutual membership in Trinity Reformed Church, Bloomington. At the time of the writing of the work, Tutino was in the process of completing his doctoral cello studies at Indiana University, and the present work was written for one of the recitals that were part of his degree requirements. The subtitle, Ordo salutis, is the Latin phrase for "order of salvation," a theological concept that attempts to describe the working of God in the life of a person to bring him to repentance and faith. Of course, in light of such verses as Isaiah 55:8-9, any attempt at truly describing this work of God is impossible, but despite that, I thought that a musical depiction of this work of God might be both possible and profitable. Consequently, the six movements, all played without pause, deal with the theological concepts of bondage, conviction, repentance, justification, sanctification and glorification. Each movement is titled in Latin to suggest the work of past theologians to identify and describe these concepts, although not all of the components of the ordo salutis are included here, and the opening movement devoted to bondage is not included in the list compiled by theologians. This movement, "Servitus," paints a portrait of despair for a man caught up in the bondage to sin that Christians believe applies to each and every human being prior to receiving the work of God in his life (a concept known as "original sin.") Although at times dissonant, the movement also has some areas of wandering through various tonal areas to suggest the concept that no man is as bad as he possibly could be, despite the futility of a man's efforts to save himself. "Convictio" attempts to portray the whispering and tugging by the Holy Spirit through quick soft passages mostly in the upper range of the two instruments. Many ascending scalar passages are heard in this movement as the Spirit begins his work in bringing the sinner to repentance, which is described in the following movement, "Paenitentiam." This movement musically paints remorse and grief on the part of the man so convicted of his sin, but ends on an optimistic note, unlike the opening movement which is unrelentingly despairing in tone. "Iustificationem" is perhaps the shortest movement ever written in any piece of music, consisting as it does of a single note, a pizzicato in the solo cello. This momentary sound suggests the singular and instantaneous act of God as he regenerates a man's heart. Immediately following is "Sanctificatio," which describes through the busy-ness in both instruments, the work on this earth that the Christian is called unto, and his growth in holiness. The latter is suggested by the overt tonality of this movement, intended to represent the gaining of victory over sin that the Christian experiences. There are a few less tonal sections along the way to suggest that such gaining of holiness is not a smooth and unbroken upward slope. At the end of this movement, though, there is a brief musical representation of the death of the believer, and the "Glorificatio" movement immediately ensues. The final removal of the presence of sin in this person's life is portrayed by the cello which plays only natural (pure) harmonics throughout the entire movement. His presence with God in eternity is suggested by the slow tempo and the ubiquitous presence of the Trinity through major triads in the piano part of this movement.

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