Semblance of a Sonata

Instrumentation
Clarinet and piano
Commissioned by Katherine Kellert. Written in July, 2013 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Duration: approx. 15 minutes
 Premiered By Katherine Kellert, clarinet and Molly Orlando, piano at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, Washington, DC in December, 2014.
Like many people, and for a long time, I’ve been obsessed with Beethoven’s last piano sonata (op. 111, in c minor). It is a highly unusual work in just two movements, one fast and the other slow, in which the second movement is at least twice as long as the first. These unusual proportions have fascinated me ever since I first got to know the sonata as a student, and I’ve always wanted to replicate them in a piece of my own.
Semblance of a Sonata aims to replicate the proportions of Beethoven’s Op. 111 without alluding to Classical structures of any kind. Neither of the piece’s movements are in sonata form with an introduction nor in a theme and variations scheme. The first movement, “Interruptions (al unisono)”, is a jaunty piece in which the clarinet and piano play in unison for the entirety of the movement. Its suggestions of a fast dance are rudely interrupted by an increasing number of static notes in the lower register, and these gestures bring the movement to what appears to a premature end. In the second movement, “Aires,” the very closing gesture becomes the catalyst for the melody that drives the entire movement.
Semblance of a Sonata was commissioned by Katherine Kellert, whom I’ve known now for close to a decade as a compatriot, colleague and, most importantly, friend.