About this work:
In its external features the formal plan of Sonatine for piano strongly resembles that of many similarly entitled compositions for piano composed throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The work is in three movements, a slow, quite meditative and very sustained, movement flanked by two very quick movements. Each movement places great emphasis on textural clarity and continuity. The prevailing tessitura, at least in the outer movements, is high rather than low.
The first movement is set in three clearly delineated sections corresponding to the exposition, development, and recapitulation sections of classical sonata-allegro form. Within the continuous fabric of the first section a number of closely related motives evolve from the six-tone opening theme played by the right hand, a theme characterized by dotted rhythms and leaps of the third and the sixth. After a momentary interruption the music resumes with a restatement of this theme, developing it with ever increasing intensity. After another interruption of the otherwise continuous flow, a recapitulation ensues which further elaborates on the points already made in the manner of a peroration. The movement concludes with a brief coda of three measures.
The lyrical slow movement, which functions as the keystone of the piece, is itself in the form of an arch. Written almost exclusively in a treble dominated texture of three-part counterpoint, this movement consists of a series of balanced phrases whose lengths gradually increase until a climax is reached in the seventeenth measure. The progress of the movement is aided by a process comparable to the harmonic movement achieved by the "harmonic functions" found in music exhibiting tonality.
After a slow introduction designed to dissipate the atmosphere created by the second movement, the first prinipal section of the third movement commences with the statement of a theme in quintuple meter, characterized by sharp, heavy attacks and intervallically related to the first movement. A second, contrasting theme is then introduced, the shape of which is derived in part by the linearization of the dominant harmonic intervals of the opening theme. The salient features of these themes are combined and recombined in a brief development section, which is followed by a recapitulation in which both themes reappear in reverse order and on different pitch levels. The movement concludes with a final appearance of the opening theme slightly altered rhythmically but now on the same pitch level as at first.
Composed for pianist Genevieve Chinn, Sonatine was completed during the summer of 1972 and first performed by the composer in New York City on April 17, 1975 and later recorded by him for Capstone Records (CPS-8679).
Score available from Mira Music Associates. Contact: email@example.com
Reviews: "Freely tonal, excellent development of ideas, well conceived for the instrument."
Guide to the Pianist's Repertoire
"One disc that has stood out...is Music for Keyboard Instruments.... Brings shows his very impressive versatility on this disc as he appears in the roles of composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher, the last through his candid and very informative booklet notes for the CD."
"...a harpsichord concerto...that might well be the best American harpsichord concerto on the market today."
"There is a real composer's voice here with no padding, no filler, no unnecessary notes. He says what he has to say and then stops. No grandiose posturings or insincere gestures occur in this music."
"The five contrasting movements of [Five Pieces (1980)] are very idiomatically written for the piano and would definitely reward the pianist willing to undertake them. Their clear contrasts and appropriate length should make them attractive to audiences as well."
"Allen Brings seems quite comfortable composing for all types of keyboard instruments.... After the first hearing of the CD [Music for Keyboard Instruments by Allen Brings], this listener was exhausted and could only imagine the fatigue of the performers. The music possesses such an unyielding drive that, whatever the composer's intent, it may be lost on us before we ever get to the last work. But after several hearings Brings' voice became amazingly clear to me, and the gems in his music, not readily apparent upon first acquaintance, were now quite recognizable. For it's obvious that Brings looks back and takes classical forms as structure for his works. Although the harmonies he chooses are much more suited to this past century, his pieces seem to marry the past with the present to create an unusually perplexing offspring....
"...Brings delves into the past for his structure, searches the outer limits for his harmonies, and yet seems to shun the 20th century altogether when it comes to those impossible rhythms we pianists love to hate....
"The final work on this recording, Concerto da camera No. 4 for harpsichord and strings (1994), is by far the most passionately performed, rhythmically diverse, and harmonically compelling of all the works. While there are traces of that undying rhythmic uniformity in the harpsichord, the strings add long-awaited color changes, both sensuous and exotic....
"One can finally feel at ease with Brings' never ending quest to unite the past and present. This is clearly his most thought-provoking work, one that certainly makes this recording worth owning!"
New Music Connoisseur
Vol. 9, No. 2
"He has published dozens of rigorous and imaginative works for various instruments and ensembles in an 'avowedly late 20th-century idiom.'...Though Brings' contrapuntal textures [in Six Praeludia recorded on Music for Keyboard Instruments by Allen Brings] may not easily beguile the ear, these works do impress both on initial hearing and after repeated listening....The other compositions are worthwhile, too, and are also well performed."
The American Organist
"Despite the complexities often offered, there is something in Western music that suggests getting down to the basics when composing keyboard music. There are no color supplements or distractions (depending on the point of view). It's all about pitch and rhythm, line and harmony and form. So we're happy to report that Allen Brings brings the right stuff to the table when that table is full of keys—be they of the piano, harpsichord, or organ.
"The composer characterizes Five Pieces (1980) as pianistically 'serious divertimenti,' and he's got that paradox right. In the related piano Sonatine (1972), he worries that there 'have been many Kalkbrenners for every Chopin,' but, hey! perhaps another paradox is that the Kalkbrenners write pretty well, too. . .
"Medium remains a powerful notion, however, because the coloristic tendencies of harpsichord and organ bring us completely into other worlds. The environment is a skeletal one in the harpsichordistic Tre esercizi (1986, the title is after D. Scarlatti)—with its second-movement grim-reaper steady bass flanked by active, truculent outer exercises—but warmed and punched up quite a bit by string ensemble in Concerto da camera No. 4 with its baroque-and-Bartók overtones. The soundscape turns another corner in the austere, grim, flamboyant, and liturgical Six Praeludia for organ.
"The performers—pianists Genevieve Chinn and Brings, harpsichordist Bradley Brookshire, organist Stephen Tharp, and a string ensemble under the composer's direction—carry off all with aplomb."
Version: solo piano
Year composed: 1972
Ensemble type: Keyboard:Piano
Instrumentation: 1 Piano