PIANO SONATA NO. 3 (Sonata Macabre) (2006) Op. 83 

Opus number: op. 83

Title: Piano Sonata No. 3, Sonata Macabre

I. Adagio

II. Allegretto–Meno mosso–Allegretto

III. Largo (In memoriam: György Ligeti (June 12, 2006)

IV. Scherzando

Date written: 2006

Length: 12 minutes

Premiere performance: October 15, 2006, Jordan Hall, Larry Bell, pianist

Subsequent performances: February 9, 2009, Larry Bell, pianist. David Friend Recital Hall, Berklee College of Music

Program Notes: My Third Piano Sonata was written in June of 2006 and grew out of a desire to understand the musical language of one of my teachers, Roger Sessions. After a thorough analysis of the Sessions nine symphonies, I began to notice a consistent (although unorthodox and unsystematic) approach to the choice of pitches.  Most notable, however, was the absence of any techniques associated with dodecaphony or serialism.

Instead, I noticed a distinct preference for half-step fluctuations between scales of the same type (such as whole tone and octatonic scales). Furthermore these scales were embellished with “non harmonic” tones that lay outside of these collections. Although these groupings were clearly not tonal, they also seemed to eschew any type of system. The pitches were chosen rather freely, but always in relation to a principal motive or theme.

My own sonata follows the classical scheme: first movement, sonata form with three expositions (a form dear to Sessions and derived from Beethoven); an elegiac slow movement; a third-movement minuet and trio; and a frenetic and somewhat sardonic finale. The overall character of the music shows the influence of  Sessions, as well, in its preoccupation with a kind of black comedy; thus the subtitle Sonata Macabre. In addition, while composing the sonata, I learned of the death of the great Hungarian composer, György Ligeti, hence the dedication at the head of the second movement.

I recorded my first Piano Sonata on “New American Romantics” in 1996 on North/South Recordings (N/SR 1007) and my Piano Sonata No. 2 (Tâla) on “Piano Music of Larry Bell,” Albany Records (Troy 828).

Recording: Larry Bell, Casa Rustica Recordings CRR 001