In the spring of 2019, I was working on the movement structure for Poem for American Acrimony. For various reasons, there was a stop-work needed on Poem for a couple of months. Wanting to keep my creative juices flowing, I was speaking to my friend Bob – one of the orchestra’s horn players (hornist). I expressed to him my frustrations with my creative “stall.” He said to me: “Well, what would you think about writing a piece for solo horn? Or maybe even writing a sonata for horn and piano?” That was all I needed to hear. I began composing this work, dedicating it to Bob.
I will always be grateful to Bob for suggesting this new composition idea to me. I really had not thought much about the horn as a solo instrument. Knowing Bob’s personality, I began writing the piece with the middle movement, because I knew that he enjoyed lyrical, ballad-like melodies. He very much liked what I wrote, and it became the Adagio, Movement II. Then I wrote the first movement, which is upbeat, yet sometimes brooding compared to the second movement.
Interestingly, before Bob could perform it, a hornist friend of his heard the work and contacted me asking if she could play “H1” at her recital. She performed the world premiere for movements one and two in October 2019. Another hornist later heard the work and said, “I would really like to play this at our chamber concert in January 2020 – if you can finish the third movement!” At this point, I was back full-time composing and orchestrating Poem for American Acrimony, but I was also excited to turn back some of my attention to “H1”.
The texture I was hearing was a very engaging third movement: this would be a piece that would be very difficult and challenging — even for a full-time professional hornist. Thus, I set out to write a very driving, moody, dynamic, driven, and virtuoso movement three to complete my opus 09. While technically very challenging, I still wanted to have plenty of recognizable melodic content, so the audience could depart from the concert humming at least two or three themes from the work. If you listen very carefully, you may even hear my nod to a famous musical signature in The Beatles’ A Day in the Life.
I found that I really love the horn as a vehicle for composing. Both the dynamic and performance ranges of the instrument are actually pretty astounding. I’m not sure how many horn sonatas I will write in my career, but I’m sure I’ll tackle at least one more. “H1″ will always be special because it filled a creative gap in my life when my major work at the time was on hold for a couple of months. I hope you enjoy Horn Sonata N0 1.