Sonata for Viola and Piano was composed between January and April, 1992, for my good friend John Pomeroy. Completed just before my 22nd birthday, it is my first extended work and owes much to the great classical tradition of chamber music, in which I was immersing myself at the time. The form and style of the piece reflect these influences, though they are played with in subtle ways throughout.
The first movement, a broad sonata-allegro, begins with the dramatic first theme in the piano. The viola answers with an intimate, ornamented version of the theme, which is repeated by the piano against a singing viola counterpoint. This transition leads to the second theme, heard in the piano, bringing the exposition to a close. After a repetition of the exposition, the development begins with a tranquil cadential theme. This theme is then taken up in counterpoint between the viola and piano, after which the ornamented version of the first theme is developed in stormy counterpoint. The second theme also makes an appearance, building to a climax. A sudden calm introduces a retransition based on the first theme. The recapitulation begins as a viola cadenza on the first theme, balancing the initial piano statement. The transition returns, this time with the piano leading and viola answering. The second theme now appears triumphantly in the viola, and the movement ends with the cadential theme stated quietly against viola harmonics.
The second movement begins with a dark lyrical theme in the viola over a rolling piano accompaniment. The piano answers, then the two join together, building to a climax and subsiding. A new theme emerges in the viola, intertwining with a piano countermelody. The piano answers with a highly ornamented version of the melody, against which the viola intones a new countermelody. This leads to a third theme in the viola that is based on the first theme. The piano again answers with an ornamented version, leading to a cadence. A shortened restatement follows, with the two instruments presenting the themes together instead of alternately.
The third movement follows attacca with a jaunty, dance-like theme. A contrasting section featuring a lyrical theme based on the second theme from the second movement follows. After a brief development, the first theme returns, though in a more somber guise. A second contrasting section features a third theme, based on the first theme of the second movement. As this theme winds down, a hint of the first movement is heard, leading to the return of the jaunty theme, now in a rhythmic fugato section. A brilliant coda brings the movement and the sonata to a close.