Program notes – by the composer:
The French Horn sonata was composed as a direct result of the creation of the horn concerto – “Sounds Awakened” – composed nearly at the same time. A consortium of 7 horn players (listed on the next page) had come together to commission the concerto, and each was promised a new sonata as well – as a “bonus piece.” I originally didn’t think I would compose the sonata for quite some time, but when the opportunity arose to have it premiered at the International Horn Symposium,
I figured that would be a great opportunity for an interested audience! At that point, Haley Hoops and Charles “Skip” Snead signed on to be a part of the sonata consortium, with Haley presenting the premiere, to be held May 15, 2012, in Denton, TX.
The sonata is traditional in its fast-slow-fast three-movement format, and allows each of the equal partners ample opportunity to show their technique, depth of musicality and range of ability.
The 1st movement starts out with a 2-note motif, which becomes a cornerstone for the entire movement. The figure is turned around, or manipulated in other ways to inform many other aspects of the movement. The opening chord is also very important. First of all, if one looks at the RH of the piano and extracts the top note and bottom two notes (Bb, C and D), this becomes the motif for the Passacaglia figure repeated throughout the 2nd movement in the LH of the piano. And secondly, if all of the notes of the 1st measure are combined, it spells the Bb scale, with 2 notes missing: G and A. Throw another Bb on top of that and you have the inspiration for the first 3 notes of the solo horn part in the last movement. So, although the sonata is essentially in F, it is based on the notes of the Bb scale.
The last source of ideas came from Haley Hoops (the premiering horn soloist) herself, who at one point stated “I like 5ths”. Thus, the last movement takes a lot of its inspiration from perfect 5ths.
I definitely want to take a moment to thank all of the horn players who contributed to this project. I am forever grateful that I was entrusted the task of creating these two new major works for the French Horn.
Jim Stephenson, May, 2012