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Sonata for Guitar and Piano

gtr,pf(2 scores needed for performance)

Sonata for Guitar and Piano was composed in 1995 as a commission for guitarist William Anderson who premiered the work that same year in Merkin Concert Hall with pianist Joan Forsyth. It counterposes two instruments that share some important material features such as producing sound by striking strings over a resonant body and still other musical features such as a balanced capacity for both melodic and harmonic gestures. Yet in other ways the instruments are completely at odds. The dynamic capacities of the two instruments are so different that a tension and restrictive boundary could be expected to circumscribe this work, but it does not. Wuorinen instead exploits these differences by making virtues of them throughout the piece. Cast in three movements that proceed in the traditional Fast-Slow-Fast manner, the beginning of the work presents the guitar and piano in a fully integrated perpetual motion machine that undermines the perception of two contrasting instruments and replaces it instead with the impression of some new and wonderful instrument capable of sounds and articulations that we had never heard before. The initial gesture that opens the work is itself a familiar Wuorinenism: a syncopated overlay shared between two voices in similar motion. Here they are unfolding chromatically opposed pentatonic fragments that will eventually become reconciled in a final vertical harmony some eleven minutes later. Although Wuorinen’s score reveals that great pains have been taken to seamlessly resolve the differences between the instruments, the performers themselves - Anderson and Forsyth - must be heartily lauded for having achieved something transcendent of mere faithfulness to Wuorinen’s instructions. The balance and clarity of this performance demonstrate great affinity and insight for Wuorinen’s holistic approach to the unusual duo treated in this instance.

-From program note by Bruce Quaglia from Albany CD of Wuorinen Duos (TROY 1077).   

"Wuorinen’s Sonata accomplished the seemingly impossible task of combining the piano and guitar and creating the effect of parity between them, in true sonata style." The Music Connoisseur