10 Sonatas for Solo Violin or Viola
Sonatas 1-5 for 6 String Violin
Five of the sonatas (violin edition, #4, 6, 7, 9 and 10) were premiered at Duke University on March 31, 2006 in a program with Eric Pritchard, three of his students, and a friend of mine (Lin-Ti Wang). Eric played Sonatas 1, 9, and 10 on his faculty recital on January 14, 2007. The recordings of #6 and 7 are added to the synthesized versions below; you may see the program to the first here. Eric recorded #1, 9, and 10 again in October 2009 with better surroundings, more takes, and some engineering, so those recordings are included here. I gave an introductory talk in '06 (click here for the recording) that may be a touch hard to understand due to the heavy reverb in the hall. A better recording (and shorter talk!) is from the '07 recital here. On August 10, 2014, Eric premiered Sonata #3 at the Unity Center of Peace in Chapel Hill NC, and the videos are posted on my YouTube channel with links below. Many thanks to the musicians.
Mary Kay Robinson performed the Sonata #4 in Brevard NC on February 15, 2009.
Below are links to all ten scores in PDF format, much more convenient than downloading each movement in Finale. (There had been 11 sonatas until late November 2015; I have eliminated the old Sonata #8, using its middle movement for the first movement of the old Sonata #9 to make the new Sonata #8. The old #10 and #11 are now #9 and #10.)
In 2002 I made a version of the first three sonatas for 6 string violin. Now (March 2017) I started a new attempt at playing violin again, and in hopes of playing 6 string violin someday, I am arranging all ten sonatas for 6 strings. (I'll have to wait and see if a cortisone shot in my right shoulder makes this return to playing possible.) The full set of ten sonatas will be done sometime in the spring or early summer. Note that this arrangement has considerable differences from the original, in order to take full advantage of the instrument. In addition, in 2002 I arranged the Bach Sonata #1 and Partita #2 for 6 string violin, and I have just completing the difficult copywork into Finale on March 25, 2017. Those two arrangements have their own web page.
Those violin sonatas that have not yet been performed are marked with an asterisk (*). None of the viola edition or 6 string versions have been performed or recorded to date (March 2017).
The cover photograph (included here to the upper right) is of me playing violin at age about 11.
These solo violin sonatas were written between 1975 and 2003 in a rather complex pattern of starts and stops, composition and disposal, editing and recopying. I wrote a solo violin sonata in the spring of 1975, and based my now-eliminated First Symphony based on its ideas; dissatisfied, I completely re-wrote it in January 1979, saving little from the original. I revised the first movement again in the spring of 1991 and the last movement in 2002. The second sonata came along in 1976, composed for Deborah Moreland’s 18th birthday as a two-movement work. I rewrote both movements in 1991, and in 2002 reversed their order and added a third movement written in 1991. (In addition, in 1975 I wrote a sonata for solo ‘cello or viola, but discarded it later.)
In 1979 I decided to write a total of 64 movements in 21 sonatas for solo violin, correlating each movement to a hexagram of the “I Ching”—not by using chance to determine things, as John Cage did, but just as a kind of unifying device and as an illustration of the nature of each hexagram. As I finished the 21 sonatas, my arthritis became severe enough that I could no longer play violin, and the sonatas remained unperformed.
In 1991 I made an electric violin which I used for six months. It appeared that I was going to be able to play again, so I went back to work on the 21 sonatas, throwing out the weaker movements, rewriting those that had promise, and keeping the ones that were fine as they stood. This made the new total of 16 sonatas with about a third completely new material. However after this six month period I was no longer able to play, both physically and due to other complications. At this time, when I was forced to vacate my dwelling, my landlord threw away all my compositions that had been copied in ink.
There followed ten years where making music was not possible. In late 2001 and early 2002, I had a stable life studying physics at NCSU, an old piano, housing, and access to a woodshop. I made two electric violins, a 4-string and a 6-string, that I held like a cello, with an assistive device to hold up my bow-arm. I could only play for a limited time before it became too painful, but the new attempt at performance inspired me to rework once again my old solo violin sonatas, including arrangements for viola and 6-string violin. (I located two copies of the old 21 sonatas that I had given to violinists, returned unperformed, and also recovered pencil drafts from the 1991 revisions—thus recovering from the landlord’s editorial judgment.) This led to once again throwing away weaker movements and a radical re-ordering of the remaining ones in sets of three or four to make eleven sonatas that were reasonably consistent. The grouping is arbitrary, though, and in performance it is perfectly respectable for the violinist to pick whatever movements seem appropriate and play them in the order of his or her choice.
By spring of 2003, it became clear that the arthritis was too advanced and my attempt at a return to performance had to end. Now I rely on others to perform.
In November 2015 I was making a revision of the copywork and making an experimental arrangement for cello, when I realized that the eighth of the eleven sonatas had two weak movements. I kept only the middle movement, and made what had been #9, 10, and 11 the new #8, 9, 10, with the old middle movement now the first movement of the new #8.
In February 2017, I started to gather new instruments and adaptive gear for a new attempt at playing violin, starting with a 6 string fretted violin from China. Part of that effort is to recopy the old arrangements of the first three sontatas made in 2002 in ink, and converting them to Finale, along with some improvements. As of mid-March 2017, I have completed five of the ten sonatas for 6 string. Many of the movements are intended to be performed with the "freeze" sustain electronic effect, typically controlled by pedal.