Date of Composition: 1973
First prize winner, International Stroud Festival 1976
Premiere performance: Howard Shelly, 7 October 1976, Stroud, England.
Recording by Jean Pierre Dupuy on CRI: CRI CD 869
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PROGRAM NOTES: Sonata I is quite remote from the traditional sonata form, yet there are perhaps sufficient “sonata-like” features to justify the title. Such justification is more or less harder to make in the five (so far) piano sonatas that follow it. One can, however, always take refuge in the source of the word “sonata,” the Latin sonare, meaning “to sound,” and in its long and varied usage in the history of music.
Sonata I is in one movement, divided into three sections, followed by a coda. A case might be made that the three sections correspond to the exposition, development, and recapitulation--the fast-slow-fast sequence--of the classical sonata, but if such is in any way so, it was unintentional. The only conscious reference to sonata form is in the repetition of the opening chord near the end. This point marks the climax of the work.
Despite a resemblance to the ubiquitous post-serial idiom, no pre-compositional scheme guided my work: Sonata I was composed “by ear,” and by the study of many pieces of similar non-tonal complexity.
Sonata I was completed 7 December 1973. In 1976 it won first prize in the International Stroud Festival and was subsequently premiered by Howard Shelly, 7 October 1976 in Stroud, England. -James Sellars