Sonata for Bassoon and Piano (duration: 15:30′)
I. Allegro agitato (4′)
II. Chorale – Theme – 6 Variations (11:30′)
by James M. Stephenson (1969)
The Sonata for Bassoon and Piano was co-commissioned by a brave group (listed below) of bassoonists who all signed up, sight-unseen, for a new bassoon sonata to go along with the reduction of my bassoon concerto (Dialogue of Self and Soul).
The result is the sonata – composed between June 23-28, 2014, in a flurry of creative inspiration. It is set in two movements, an up tempo “agitated” first movement followed by a chorale/theme with six variations. Most of the piece revolves around B minor – not for any particular reason other than that it felt natural, and that the melodies and “licks” seemed to generate themselves within this sonority.
The variations were a very fun to compose, especially variations 2 and 5. In Variation 2, much to my delight, I discovered by chance that when I set the melody backwards on top of the existing chord progression, it provided inspiration for a really nice “back-porch” bluesy ballad. Variation 5 exists solely of “substitution chords”, again creating a jazz framework within which the bassoonist is free to wander. The other variations highlight both players’ virtuosic capabilities as they comment back and forth upon the derivations from the original theme.
Listed below are the bassoonists who responded eagerly with “I’m in” when presented with the opportunity to join in on this project. Special thanks goes to my dear friend, Laura Najarian, who assisted greatly in introducing me to many unsuspecting bassoonists!
Catalina Guevara Viquez Klein
Deborah L. Efflandt
J. Christopher Marshall
Robert D. Jordan, DMA
Renee Anthony Dee; bassoon – symphonies of Akron, Canton and Cleveland Pops
Mark L. Romatz, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Katherine St. John; Charleston Symphony, Principal Bassoon
Dr. Trent Jacobs
Cassandra Bechard, Bassoon Professor
Robert A. Losinno