Portrait of Peter Paul Koprowski thumbtack

Sonata for Cello Solo

Duration: 15 minutes

Written: 1975

Premiered: January 17, 1976

Cello: Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi


Sonata for Cello Solo was written in two stages. The first sketches date back to 1970; the time of my studies with Nadia Boulanger. The score was completed, however, in 1975 when I was first exposed to the artistry of Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, to whom this work is dedicated and who premiered it and recorded it for the CBC.

It is a highly virtuosic piece, and it represents an attempt at blending the traditionally designed gestures with certain modern idioms, which include pitch structure, colour, and rhythm.

The sonata is designed in one movement which breaks into two major sections. The thematic material introduced at the beginning of the score unfolds gradually in the course of the piece. The full statement of the theme does not appear until the final segment of the composition.

In this final appearance, though, the theme is distorted through the use of microtones which have been gradually introduced throughout the course of the piece. The microtones include intervals such as approximate quarter tones, third tones and intervals which, on the fingerboard, fall in between the familiar intervals as well as notes spelled enharmonically.
Selected frozen pitches in various registers (also frozen on the fingerboard of the instrument) control the actual flow of the composition. The most prominent sonority in this piece is that of a diminished triad while C and G are the pitches of focus throughout.
The use of microtones symbolizes my attitude towards traditional forms and language which I see as decaying but, still valid, full of potential for original treatment and further exploration.