Movement I - Cantabile
Movement II - Dolce e Cantabile
Movement III - Leggiero
Duration ca. 15 minutes.
“Alone With You” written in 2021 is a “pandemic era” piece, and if I had to relate the circumstances of its composition to the music, (a privilege that belongs to every listener, not just the composer) I would offer that the piece could conceptually be about being alone in our minds with our thoughts and emotions, either experiencing pure solitude, or being "alone with others."
Just as our own thoughts may have a duality, and our relationships with others may have a duality, each of the three movements expresses this interplay musically by having two basic modes of expression that interact with and flow into each other. And being very much a piece "about" the piano, the different emotions have different piano textures, for example a lyric melody contrasted with dramatic chords, or a gentle small tune contrasted with a wide ranging arpeggio, it being my way of trying to use multiple pianistic colors and contrasts that arise out of the musical vocabulary and illustrate the varying moods for the listener while creating a satisfying work for solo piano and pianists.
The first movement has the expressive heading Cantabile which means "singing" or "songlike." It begins with a gently bardic harp figure over a wide range, the melody above is an aria, a sweetly melodic trilling. But things develop: a contrasting wide-ranging and dramatic type second subject which arises from the destabilizing tritone interval begins to appear, demonstrative and proclamatory. The lyric song and the demonstrative tritone outbursts constantly flow into each other and away from each other, sometimes one takes over, sometimes the other seems to insistently sing. Sometimes the mood is unsettled, sometimes it returns to calm. Several times the lyric song begins again insistent on its gift, and each time it is gradually overtaken in various ways by its more demonstrative and harmonically intense counterpart. But the winding gentle melody cannot be silenced, and at the end, a sort of peace occurs, but it’s not clear if it is peace within one person, alone, or peace between two people, alone together.
The second movement is headed Dolce e cantabile which means here "sweetly and gently singing." It contrasts a very simple almost childlike "nursery rhyme" melody in a very close-played piano texture, like an early Mozart piece well contained within the span of the two hands at the keyboard with a melody above simple chords and figurations. The second contrasting subject is a gentle waltz of enormous soaring arpeggiated melody over several octaves, a soaring but gentle waltz. As the movement progresses, the simple melody evolves and becomes more contrapuntal in the accompaniment, counter melodies appear, and the contrasting soaring waltz transverses different keys and modes. The two gentle subjects intertwine, interact, and grow until at the end they combine.
The simple melody is actually not so simple: it glides between keys, and between major and minor modes, leading naturally to diminished chord harmonies (also related to the first movement's tritone sounds), subtly complex. The “gentle waltz” also comes and goes in different keys, and then becomes more modal, more minor, then more “diminished chord” destabilized as well. This little movement is a sort of study of the overall harmonic world I have tried to create for myself in many of my works. It may sound basically melodic, but in fact the melody constantly traverses and modulates between keys and modes. The listener may sense variety and forward motion that also manifests itself in how the different ranges of the piano are used. This work is intended to be very much "of" the piano and to have its melody and harmony enriched by and organically in sync with the piano's unmatched range and variation of colors.
The third movement has the heading Leggiero, which here means lightly and gracefully played, a gossamer effect. It is a perpetual motion and a sort of “ecstatic toccata.” A variant of the same melodic kernel that unifies the entire work now becomes a simple melody floating above the moto perpetuo, accompanied by impressionistic major and minor chords evoking perhaps a star filled night sky and the chiming, ringing, floating eternity of the cosmos. But like the night sky with its lights, the heavens also generate “meteors” or even fireworks, as the constantly modulating motion threatens to “explode” rapid chords that traverse the entire range of the piano. The moto perpetuo's energy tries to contain itself but seemingly cannot stay within its bounds, and is compelled to break out at several moments. There is also a reminder of where this journey began: twice in the movement, under the undulating figures, the "aria" theme from the first movement appears in a memory, first giddily joyous with trills, then later more lyrically as a fond memory, but those memories now cause “outbursts.” The music cascades into a thundering conclusion, after which we hear echoes of the "stars" in a perhaps wistful but happy resolution and homecoming.
Alone With You has been recorded by the superb British pianist Julian Jacobson on the First Leaf Music label, and is available for steaming on all leading digital music services (Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, etc.)
YouTube (with scrolling score):
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Solo Piano score PDF on Issuu: