Kyle Gann: "Last Chance" Sonata (1999)

for clarinet and piano

When a very talented young clarinetist, Sara Phillips, asked to see my early clarinet piece from 1984, I realized it didn't really live up to my memory of it, and that I needed to write a new clarinet piece. Instead of one big idea I came up with four brief ones, and gradually realized that they were symmetrically interrelated enough that I could call the piece a sonata rather than the excruciatingly bland "Four Pieces for Clarinet." And since I was a little embarrassed to be writing a 20th-century-style sonata in 1999, with conventionally fast outer movements and an inner slow one, I called the piece "Last Chance" Sonata to indicate that I was getting the impulse out of my system once and for all. I wanted the first movement to capture the spirit of Schumann, though it's been pointed out that I came closer to Brahms. The Snake Dance is an example of a genre I've written percussion music in. And the final Dance of Indeterminate Ethnicity is not only a reference to early-20th-century, odd-metered dances of the "Hungarian," "Romanian," etc., variety, but a celebration of the future state in which our ethnicities will be so mixed that divisive national differences will be forgotten. "Last Chance" Sonata, my millennium piece, was my last chance to look backward before plunging into a bold new future.

MP3 recordings:
1. Flowers, 3:14 (Meighan Stoops, Bari Mort)
2. Snake Dance, 4:45 (Sara Phillips, Bari Mort)
3. Apparition, 7:47 (Meighan Stoops, Bari Mort)
4. Dance of Indeterminate Ethnicity, 3:15 (Sara Phillips, Bari Mort)

PDF score
clarinet part

Selected performances:
November 16, 2000, at Olin Auditorium, Bard College, by clarinetist Sara Phillips and pianist Maria de los Angeles Rivera
May 5, 2001, at the Pleshakov Music Center, Hudson, NY, by clarinetist Meighan Stoops and pianist Bari Mort

Duration: 19 minutes

PDF score here

- Kyle Gann

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