Sonatina and Hymn, For Viola and Piano. 1998. This performance by Aram Frangulyan (viola) and Daniel Partridge (piano) is the first version (1998). A score for the revised version (1999) is available.
Sonatina and Hymn developed out of the training I received in Viennese twelve-tone serialism from Lawrence Ebert, but was also informed by the work of American ultra-modernists, particularly Crawford-Seeger and Cowell. The work is highly consonant, although it is built on a twelve-tone row, and uses a number of serial devices in its composition, structured to move from the atonal opening movement into a tonal conclusion. This two part form is directly inspired by Cowell’s two part classical/vernacular forms such as the Hymn and Fuguing tunes.
I think this piece is the best work I did under Ebert’s instruction. His influence is especially apparent in the counterpoint of the first movement, especially the dialog between the viola and piano with alternating pizzicato and bowed passages for the viola and melodic fragments broken across both hands in the piano. The tonal Hymn is essentially the arguent Ebert and I had in 1997 or so, about how overt serialism should be in order to be worthwhile, and how to manage emotional content in serial music. The hymn basically converts the tone-row into a ground base, and elaborates a chorale above that in the piano’s part. The viola plays an increasingly emotive obligatto across this, developed out of the melodic contour of the tone-row, but leading to a fairly conventional final cadence.
Finally, I owe a great deal of thanks to Aram and Daniel, who put in a satisfying performance of a challenging new work, and provided valuable feedback that informed the revised version posted here.