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John Harbison

Publisher: AMP

Sonata No. 1 (In Memoriam Roger Sessions) (1987)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Solo Keyboard(s)
Year Composed
16 Minutes

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Programme Note
John Harbison Sonata No. 1 (In Memoriam Roger Sessions) (1987)
Composer Note:

The Piano Sonata No. 1 was written for Robert Shannon, Ursula Oppens, and Alan Feinberg on a consortium commission from the National Endowment for the Arts. It was composed at Token Creek, Wisconsin in the summer of 1985. The three performers for whom it was written brought their own sense of proportion, contrast, and sonority to the piece, which was very much my intention. The Sonata invites the performer’s play of personality and fantasy.

The work is in four main sections (the two inner sections being faster than the outer ones) but the articulations between them are not emphatic and the piece is conjured up rather than premeditated. Its sixteen-minute span contains very little literal repetition; virtuosic passages erupt quite unexpectedly, and the music retains the shape of its natural occurrence: unformalized. Much variety of touch and tone is required, most obviously in two passages near the end: a whirling elaboration of a big chord that drives the piece momentarily out of its orbit, and later, a strange staccato hallucination that seems to drop in from outside, both delaying and necessitating the ending.

— John Harbison

  • Soloist(s)
    Robert Shannon, piano
  • Soloist(s)
    Judith Gordon, piano
  • Soloist(s)
    Ursula Oppens, piano
    Music & Arts Programs of America:
  • Soloist(s)
    Robert Shannon, piano
    Bridge Records:
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