Sonata for Viola and Piano (2019)


Sonata for Viola and Piano in 3 Movements (2019)



Recorded Oct.26, 2019, Purdue University. Amy Brandfonbrener, viola; Nozomi Takashima, piano.


Recorded Oct.26, 2019, Purdue University. Amy Brandfonbrener, viola; Nozomi Takashima, piano.


26 min.


Viola and Piano


Very Slow and Deliberate
Rondo - Quite Fast

Program Notes

Composed in 2019 for violist Amy Brandfonbrener and pianist Nozomi Takashima, Allen McCullough’s Viola Sonata unfolds in three movements: I.Sostenuto; II.Very Slow and Deliberate; III.Quite Fast (Rondo).

The composer’s affection for melody comes immediately to the fore from the onset of the opening movement. Much of the material in this movement focuses on the lyrical treatment of melody, exploring its potential for development and elaboration. A second theme (of sorts) emerges from this melodic gesture, and is eventually followed by a recapitulation of the opening theme, similar to a return of theme in Classical “sonata form.” The movement concludes with a rambunctious flurry, combining the two themes, cast against florid scalar motives in both piano and viola.

The second movement is in loving memory of a life-long friend to the composer, Lauren Heaton (1975-2019). The movement opens in the painful lament of a life lost too young – a sentiment that prevails throughout. The quasi-melodic gesture initiated by the viola is followed by an imitation of this gesture in the piano, creating a sense of dialogue between the two instruments. Imitative gestures recur as the movement progresses, continuing the conversation. Perhaps the music attempts to instigate a continued dialogue and friendship rendered impossible by death. As with the life of her extraordinary soul now vanished, a premature climax is reached in the music, which dissipates into something warm and ethereal.

The final movement begins without pause, as the primary motive is stated in the viola on top of a sustained pedal tone in the piano – a note struck as the final utterance of the 2nd movement. The form of the movement – a five part rondo with an extended coda – entails multiple returns of the energetic refrain, interspersed with a return of the lyrical theme from the opening movement (A | B | A | B | A : coda). At times gentle, and at times grandiose and triumphant, the work concludes optimistically – the triumph of life over death.


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