Sonata (2008)

Duration: 18:00 minutes

Instrumentation: violin and piano with a synthesizer or electric keyboard as a second manual

Premiere: March 24, 2009 at the University of Texas-Austin by Isaac Thompson, violin and Allie Yuying Su, keyboards


     When my good friend Isaac Thompson asked me to write a violin sonata, I was both excited and intimidated by the prospect of facing the wealth of masterpieces that form the repertoire. So my piece came to embody my response to those feelings; I engage with and emulate aspects of the great sonatas, but I consciously diverge as well (most obviously by adding an electric keyboard as a second manual for the pianist). I hope that, by building on the past, the music is familiar and direct, while also offering surprising and idiosyncratic perspectives on the great tradition of violin sonatas.  

   The first movement opens with a nervous and spiky theme, dominated by short, accented articulations before giving way to a more lyrical and legato section. The music builds to a crashing climax and a varied form of the opening returns to conclude the movement. 

   The second movement is a wild scherzo at breakneck speed, alternating with a capricious “trio” section. 

   The last movement is the most expansive, opening with a long-winded and disjunct melody. The music develops over obsessive repetitions of the opening harmonies until the opening melody returns, bringing the piece to its emotional climax. The extended coda is a set of short cadenzas in which the violin references some of the music of the previous movements.