Cello Sonata No. 1 (“Hallowe’en”)

Jolyon Pegis, cello, Liudmila Georgievskaya, piano (fragment from II. "Channeling")

The cello has always been my favorite string instrument. My inspiration to compose a cello sonata came in private, not as a commission. As of 2020, the work has not been performed. While the overall sonata is dedicated to my mentor and friend, William Bolcom, as of his 70th birthday year (2008), each of the three movements also draw inspiration from elder composers I have known. In reverse order, Movement 3, Danse Macabre is specifically inspired by Bolcom, with its witty co-opting of rock rhythms and banal tunes such as one might find in some of his own string sonatas. Movement 2, Channeling is inspired by David N. Baker, whose own cello sonata for Janos Starker left an indelible impression on me, particular its slow movement (as this movement is to my sonata). When I began to compose Movement 1, Carnival of Souls, I was thinking of how Brahms might have composed an opening theme in 5/8 time. The movement moves from a stuffy Brahmsian accent and into something more Hispanic, drawing a visual impression from the Mexican Day of the Dead. The musical argument is ultimately between the smoky Brahmsian utterance and the compact, angular melodic characteristics of some Latin American classical music. My “living composer” inspiration in that regard is Paquito d’Rivera, whose chamber music I came to know around the same time. The sonata’s overall title, “Hallowe’en,” is clearly a summary of the extra-musical implications of the movement titles, but came to be also because its composition took place in September-October, 2008, being completed on Barack Obama’s historical Election Day, November 4, 2008.


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