Sonata da chiesa (1998)
for flute and organ
Commissioned by the American Guild of Organists’s 1999 Regional Convention (Knoxville, Tennessee Chapter), my Sonata da chiesa (1998) is written for flute and a one-manual, three-stop (8’,4’,2’) portative organ with short keyboard (C – F) and no pedal. Approximately twelve minutes in length, Sonata da chiesa (1998) is easily adaptable to a larger organ by following the spirit of the registration suggestions given throughout the piece.
Historically, the terms sonata da chiesa (church sonata) and sonata da camera (chamber sonata) had their roots in the early baroque period (early 1600’s) and referred not to a form or genre but to a place of performance (church or court respectively). Later, the Italian composer, Archangelo Corelli (1653-1713), standardized the sonata da chiesa as a four-movement piece with a slow-fast-slow-fast tempo scheme and the sonata da camera as a suite of several traditional binary form dance movements, usually preceded by an introduction.
My Sonata da chiesa (1998), composed during the late spring and early summer of 1998, is influenced by the spirit of the baroque and by a number of qualities inherent in the sonata da chiesa and the sonata da camera. In many ways, the sacred and secular are bridged in Sonata da chiesa (1998).
As with the traditional sonata da chiesa, Sonata da chiesa (1998) follows a slow-fast-slow-fast four-movement scheme. Not typical of the traditional sonata da chiesa, yet reflecting the influence of the church, is the well-known 16th century chorale melody, Wie schön leuchtet (“How Brightly Shines the Morning Star”) which forms the melodic basis for the first and third movements (as well as the AAB form of Movement 1). Attributed to Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608), this melody has long been one of Germany’s most popular chorale melodies, as it is particularly associated with weddings and other church festival occasions.
The most obvious sonata da camera quality of Sonata da chiesa (1998) is the place of its World Premiere : The Knoxville Museum of Art (28 June 1999, Robert Cronin [flute], André Lash, [organ]). All four movements, in some way, display the spirit of dance, but there are no traditional baroque dances present. Movement 4 is the only movement that is in the traditional two-part, binary form of dances making up baroque suites, although Movement 1 is influenced by the baroque dance, the sarabande. Though not a dance form, the baroque ground bass technique, chaconne, is at the heart of Movement 3 and this chaconne is previewed in both Movements 1 and 2. In the baroque sonata da camera, as in all baroque suites, all the pieces are in the same key. In Sonata da chiesa (1998) each of the four movements is based on the same tonal center, C (1 : C Major; 2 : C Lydian mode; 3 : C chromatic; 4 : I /IV C major/F major “Amen cadence” chords, alternating with the same I/IV harmonies of E major/A major).
Subtitles are given for each movement, which provide the extra-musical stimuli. These subtitles are similar to those found in topical indices of hymnals and here help frame the piece. While it is best for the composition to be played as a whole, individual movements may be excerpted.
I wish to express my thanks to the Knoxville AGO Region IV Convention Committee for offering me this commission.
1.Processional – “Beginning of Worship” : ca. 2’ 10”
2.“Adoration and Praise” : ca. 2’ 30”
3.“Faith and Aspiration” (Chaconne) : ca. 4’ 20”
4.Amen – “Close of Worship” : ca. 3
Total duration : ca. 12 minutes
Winston-Salem, North Carolina (USA), Summer 1998