Sonata for Piano and Guitar
Premiere: Heather MacLaughlin and Alan Johnston, May 10, 2014, Minneapolis.
Score and part included.
Pianist Heather MacLaughlin contacted me in winter 2013 about writing a concert work for her to play and record with her husband, guitarist Alan Johnston. At first I was hesitant: the two instruments—one plucked by hand, the other hammered—are similar in attack but hard to balance. There is little repertoire for the combination. But I had enjoyed working with Alan on Thrum when he was a member of the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet. And Heather is one of the most elegant pianists in the region. That July I wrote a piece that explores the varied sonorities of the two instruments. I was delighted to discover that the letters of Heather’s name correspond to the open strings of the guitar, E-A-D-G-B-E:
H (B German for the note in solfège)-E-A-T H-E-R (Re: D in solfège)
That’s where I began, but as a texture, not a theme. The result is a true sonata: an essay, barcarolle and tuneful rondo that finds a luminous climax. Heather asked for “a beautiful, lyrical, song-like piece that celebrates where we are in life,” a tall order, but one that was a pleasure to aspire to. Composition of this work was supported in part by the American Composers Forum through the 2013 McKnight Composer Fellowship Program.