Seven Last Words was composed during the summer of 2000. It was commissioned by the German violinist Peter Stein to accompany a display of a series of paintings by his father, Rolf Stein. The work is cast as a series of seven short movements, each of which evokes the spirit of the corresponding painting. However, the compositional structure encompasses the complete set, with thematic and structural echoes weaving the seven movements into an organic whole. The most obvious of these connections is the return of material from the second movement at the end of the seventh–the suggestion of paradise now realized. The premiere was given on April 1, 2001, in Holzhausen, Germany.
Rhapsody was composed during the winter of 1997, while I was a Fulbright Fellow in Finland. It was written for, and in consultation with, cellist Audrey Mei who first performed it in a Finnish radio broadcast in May 1997. It is cast in a single movement and is a study of the progression of ideas, a concern with which I was obsessed at the time. At the same time, it explores the virtuosic and idiomatic possibilities of the violoncello. In fact, the very materials were derived from the instrument. I also took advantage of the special colors at which the violoncello excels, especially pizzicato, harmonics, multiple stops, and extreme registers.
Piano Sonata No. 1 was composed between August and November, 1995, and was first performed by pianist Martha McCarroll in Austin, TX, on November 13 of that year. This virtuosic work is cast in five short movements that explore the technical and coloristic possibilities of the instrument. Homage is paid to many earlier composers for the piano, including Brahms, Chopin, Scriabin, Ravel, Schumann, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich. The first movement contrasts an assertive first theme with a more wistful second theme before launching into a telescoped development and recapitulation. It leads without pause into the second movement, a brooding fugue. The third movement elides with the return of the opening material of the second movement, its delicate, quicksilver character contrasting with the heavy, plodding mood of the second movement. Further contrast is offered in the fourth movement, a mystical meditation on trill-like figures in the upper register of the piano. Occasional brash interjections interrupt this otherwise tranquil movement. The fifth and final movement begins explosively in the lowest register of the piano. It quickly loses momentum then gradually builds throughout the rest of the movement to finally attain and surpass this initial energy in its bravura coda.
Epigrams was composed in March and April of 1995 for my teacher, David Neubert. It is cast in four short movements, each of which explores a different facet of the double bass. The first movement exploits the lyrical and rhapsodic potentials of the instrument; the second fast notes and rapid double stop passages. The third movement takes advantage of the coloristic possibilities of the instrument, especially the varieties of pizzacato and harmonics, while the fourth movement is a study in velocity and chromatic writing.
Interlude (homage to Beethoven) was composed in July 2016 as part of a project by Susanne Kessel to assemble a tapestry of 250 pieces in honor of Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020.
For my contribution, I created a brief interlude intended to be performed between the two movements of Beethoven’s final Piano Sonata, Opus 111. The second movement of Opus 111 is a theme and variations, and my Interlude is essentially a bonus variation on Beethoven’s theme, but in my compositional language. Marked “Freely, mystical”, it transforms Beethoven’s theme into a coloristic reverie. It almost exclusively inhabits the upper registers of the piano, except for three notes, which trace the outline of the main theme from the first movement of Opus 111. The intent is to frame the Beethoven and to provide a reflection across the two centuries since it was composed, pivoting out of the first movement into a contemporary musical world and making the opening of the second movement sound as fresh as it did in his day.
Interlude is dedicated to Susanne Kessel in appreciation of her sensitive musicianship and support of living composers.