Sonata for Oboe, Horn, and Harpsichord

ENS.2018.1d | 10′
Oboe, Horn, Harpsichord





In 1914 Claude Debussy embarked on a series of six “sonatas for various instruments” (Six sonatas pour divers instruments), dedicated to his second wife. Having completed the first three, for cello and piano; flute, viola, and harp; and violin and piano, his death in 1918 forever interrupted the set.

In the manuscript of the violin sonata Debussy outlined his plans for the remainder of the cycle: sonatas for oboe, horn, and harpsichord; clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, and piano; and a final chamber orchestra “concerto where the sonorities of the ‘various instruments’ combine, with the gracious assistance of the double bass.” I have used this plan to compose my own sonata cycle inspired by the evocative instrumental combinations imagined by Debussy.

Six Debussy Sonatas follows an overall harmonic form that binds each of the sonatas together and to one another; likewise, structural cycles control the rhythmic, melodic, and textural material. All of the material was first freely composed according to the sound I wanted to create for each individual piece, then shared between sonatas as seemed to fit. Although there are no musical connections to Debussy’s original sonatas, they have the same brevity, both in terms of length and compression of musical content.