For piccolo and piano.
(Jennifer Gunn plays mvmts 1 & 2 w/ piano playback):
James M. Stephenson
Sonata for Piccolo and Piano
Written for and premiered by Jennifer Gunn on October 21, 2018. Marta Aznavoorian, pianist.
In 2017, I approached Jennifer Gunn, the piccolo player of the Chicago Symphony, about collaborating on a new piccolo sonata. Jennifer and I had known each other for several years, having done a music festival or two together, and of course, I had regularly been awed by her performances with the Chicago Symphony whenever I attended. With her blessing, I put out a call for interested flute/piccolo players, who might wish to be a part of the project, by supporting its creation. I am incredibly indebted to all of them, and their names are listed below.
The resulting sonata is in four movements. I am quite fond of the low register of the piccolo, and throughout this work, I try to take advantage of its cold, haunting sound.
The first movement is almost a slow marching dirge, revealing an arching and aching presentation.
The second movement quickly changes moods, with quirky, jazz-tinged toccata-style ostinato rhythms and melodies.
The third movement is the loneliest of the four. Somewhat cadenza-like, always yearning, this short movement allows for much expression from the performer. Again, a quick mood-shift is introduced in the fourth movement. Motifs from the first movement underscore the technical virtuosic piccolo solos; a short interlude again looks back; and finally the coda drives toward the exciting finish. And yes, there are some high notes. It is a sonata for piccolo, after all.
Again, a most sincere thank you to Jennifer for collaborating with me, and supporting this idea. And a huge shout out to all those who joined in, and trusted a former trumpet player to write for piccolo!
The list of those who contributed:
Jennifer Gunn, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Carole Bean, National Symphony Orchestra
Christine Erlander Beard, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Amanda Baker, Eastern Connecticut State University
Amanda Blaikie, Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Cindy Anne Broz
Carla Copeland-Burns, Duke University
Anne Sheedy Gardner
Dr. Keith Hanlon, Flute Authority
Debora Harris, Concordia College
Gudrun Hinze, Gewandhaus zu Leipzig
Katayoon Hodjati, The U.S. Army Field Band
Sarah Jackson, Los Angeles Philharmonic
Dr. Krista Jobson, University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley
Kathleen Karr, the Louisville Orchestra
Walfrid and Sherry Kujala
(Walfrid Kujala, Chicago Symphony Piccolo Emeritus, retired 2001)
Kelly Kuo, Artistic Director, Oregon Mozart Players
Beth Larsen, Naples Philharmonic
William Harris Lee
Amy Likar, Oakland Symphony
Megan Lomonof, The “Pershing’s Own” U.S. Army Band
Angela Massey, SW Florida Symphony, Astralis Ensemble
Courtney Morton, “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band
Rik Noyce, California State University, Dominguez Hills
Erica Peel, The Philadelphia Orchestra
Julia Richter, Elgin Symphony Orchestra
Elizabeth Shuhan, The Fort Smith Symphony
Laurie Sokoloff, Peabody Institute, Johns Hopkins University
Laurel Swinden, Wilfrid Laurier University
Mary-Elizabeth Thompson, Sul Ross State University
Krysia Tripp, University of Southern Maine
Breanna Vazquez, Chicago High School for the Arts
Therese Wacker, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Camille Watts, Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Regina Helcher Yost, Charleston Symphony Orchestra