Barnyard Episodes: Sonata for Contrabassoon and Piano (1998)
for Contrabassoon and Piano
- Hymn of Rage
Duration: 8.25 min.
Dedication: for Edith Hemenway
Commission: Commissioned for the 1999 International Contrabassoon Festival, Park City, Utah
Publisher: Lauren Keiser Music Publishing
Barnyard Episodes: Sonata for Contrabassoon and Piano (1998) was commissioned for the 1999 International Contrabassoon Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah. The work is in three movements and is scored for contrabassoon and piano. This work makes use of the entire range of the contrabassoon, from its lowermost to its uppermost registers including quick jumps from the top to the bottom and extended playing in the topmost register. It requires a skilled contrabassoonist.
The first movement, Hymn of Rage, makes use of an original hymn-like tune which forms the melodic basis for the movement. This movement expresses anger and questioning about certain circumstances involving people whom the composer knew. The movement combines cluster technique with standard melodic treatments. Besides the hymn-like melodic theme, there are numerous uses of F tonality centered clusters, as well as continual use of a particular polychord in an offset 16-note pattern which keeps coming back in the piano part throughout the work. There is contrast between the questioning, unanswered polychord theme (just “begging” for its melodic resolution, which never comes) and the seemingly confident hymn tune. The movement ends on a note of unfulfillment.
The second movement, Scherzo, is a fast, driving, playful movement which takes a theme of uneven rhythm and treats it in a variety of fashions. Themes and accompaniments are passed back and forth between the contrabassoon and piano. The movement builds up in a climax towards the ending and then ends very suddenly.
The third movement, Song, is a bouncy and fun movement that presents an endurance test for the performer as the contrabassoon plays non-stop for almost the entire movement. This movement makes great use of the entire range of the contrabassoon demonstrating its versatility and unique sounds throughout the entire compass of its range. The American folk tune The Farmer in the Dell serves as the main theme for the movement. The opening declamatory chords struck by the piano provide the basic pitch intervals that pervades the entire work as it travels through both F-major and B-major tonalities. Both the contrabassoon and piano present a variety of countermelodies and variations based on the folk tune theme including a saloon music-like middle section. There are a variety of virtuosic scales and runs for the contrabassoon including an unaccompanied cadenza in the middle of the movement. The movement ends on a note of exuberance.