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Sonata da Camera for Clarinet in A, Violin, Violoncello, and Piano was commissioned and premiered by the New York Youth Symphony as part of the First Music Commissioning Program. It will receive its first performances by members of the New York Youth Symphony in spring 2016 at Symphony Space and Carnegie Hall, New York.
The term sonata da camera came into use around the turn of the eighteenth century, as composers began designating pieces as purely instrumental works suitable for secular performance (sonata is Latin for “sounded,” as opposed to cantata, “sung,” and camera is Latin for “chamber,” as opposed to chiesa, “church”). This title suggested itself to me for two reasons. First, the fluid, episodic structure of my work—a succession of sub-sections contrasting sharply in tempo and character—owes considerable debt to the marvelous sonata da camera tradition of Baroque masters outside the Germanic tradition, especially Jean-Marie LeClair (1697-1764), Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), François Couperin (1668-1733), Henry Purcell (1659-1695), Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1784) and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). Second, this piece represents an intensive and personal exploration of the limitations and freedoms unique to a small group of instruments playing in a resonant, enclosed space. Instrumental chamber music can access a special type of musical experience, a marriage of symphonic scope and arresting intimacy. That we still in this day and age find such urgent need to join together in a room, to pull bows across strings and breathe air through cylindrical bores, to be transported by nothing but bodies, sounds, and ideas—well, that is some magic, indeed.