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Sonata for Trumpet and Piano (2001)
Notes by Jim Stephenson
The Sonata was commissioned by Richard Stoelzel, a trumpeter with Avatar Brass and trumpet instructor at Grand Valley State University (Michigan). I have known Rich since we were both trumpeters in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, which is no longer in existence, back in the summer of 1990.
After several collaborations involving arrangements for the Avatar Brass, Rich approached me about composing a new sonata for him for an upcoming tour to China. The result was a three movement work, dedicated to his rich (yes, pun intended!) tone and full command of the instrument.
The “cell” for the entire piece stems from the opening motif of the third movement, which I composed first. The four notes used in the piano part (stacked perfect 4ths) are very prominent in the outer movements, which use the inherent strength of those intervals (especially when inverted) to feature the power and fanfare-esque qualities of the trumpet. They also happen to be the same notes used in the opening of the famous Concerto of Henri Tomasi; this didn’t bother me a bit, as I am a trumpeter myself, and am very fond of that piece.
The middle movement, quite different from its counterparts, allows for the suppleness and deftness of the trumpeter to shine through. It opens with a haunting and lyrical Largo, whose motivic elements eventually give way to a light, almost French, waltz section, before returning to the original material, though slightly modified.
The 18 minute work has been described by many prominent trumpeters, including Charles Schlueter, Manny Laureano and more, as “destined to be in the top ten of the staple repertoire for trumpet” and more simply as “Wow!”
I am proud to have been asked to contribute to the repertory of my own instrument, and I am grateful to those who participate in the continuance of contemporary music, whether through performing it, or by listening to it.
Cover photo ©2010 by Mark S. Cox