Sonata for Violin and Piano
Composed in 1985 for Oakland Symphony Concertmaster Nathan Rubin and pianist Ellen Wassermann
My sonata opens with the piano’s sudden statement of a rhythmic motif that, to my ear, has the character of a ‘wake up call.’ The motif is picked up by the violin, which echoes it more slowly, as if resisting the piano’s out-and-out sense of alarm. The two instruments then work their way through various emotional regions, each time ‘reconsidering’ the motif from their new perspective. In contrast to this first movement, the second contains a sense of peace, or calm, that I like to pretend I possess buried deep inside myself. The third movement has an ABABA structure -- an alternation between an abrupt, brusque “Don’t touch me there!” demeanor, and another mood that is both looser and more sinister. Over the years, friends and colleagues have sometimes teased me for my apparent lack of imagination regarding the naming of my compositions. I can only hope that you find the content of the work contains more passion than its title.
Listen to violinist Nathan Rubin and pianist Ellen Wassermann play Sonata for Violin and Piano
I. Fantasia 4:30
II. Largo, teneramente 3:00
III. Allegro 2:00
"Rokeach's short three-movement essay, the most distinctive achievement of the evening, sounds like a sonata in name only, but this is very much a triumph of feeling over form. The composer goes into a rhapsodic mode right from the beginning, deploying his materials with remarkable economy. The piano develops an equal relationship with the violinist, whether in the dancey imitative episode in the first movement, or in the extended dialogue in the third. The central Largo unfurls with restrained lyricism . . . Violinists looking for a contemporary work to add to their recital repertoires (something to supplant Franck or Sarasate) could do a lot worse than the Rokeach."
San Francisco Examiner