Sonata for Piano Four Hands
by and Kevin Fitz-Gerald on March 1, 2001
Performances: (12/11/09) (Bernadene Blaha) : “Kevin and I did play the Raum piece numerous times after the premiere. We performed the piece at USC, and on a Piano 6 tour in central Canada, British Columbia and the Yukon.”
Score available at the Canadian Music Centre.
Elizabeth Raum is a retired principal oboist with the Regina Symphony Orchestra and a composer. She earned her Bachelor of Music in oboe performance from the Eastman School of Music, her Master of Music in composition from the University of Regina, and in May of 2004, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Mt. St. Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is also an associate member of the Canadian Music Centre.
An extremely prolific composer, her works include 3 operas, over 60 chamber pieces, 17 vocal works, choral works including an oratorio, several ballets, concerti and major orchestral works. She enjoys a reputation of being one of Canada’s most ”accessible“ composers, writing for varied mediums and in remarkably diverse styles.
From the composer: The first movement is based on two motives. The first, a triplet figure heard in the primo part twice before being answered by descending thirds in the secondo part. The insistence of these statements being passed back and forth establishes a tension between the two with the triplets expanding into a driving ostinato accompanying the augmentation of the descending thirds, which develops into a theme. The roles are soon reversed with the primo part taking up the theme accompanied by the ostinato in the bass. Back and forth they argue, ascending and descending, until a truce is finally reached. Here, a conciliatory calm prevails, more romantic in style although the underlying tension still persists, punctuated by flashes of the original motives. Declarations from each part pervade this middle section as the music grows more and more intense and angry until we have returned to the original conflict. But the battle seems to have spent itself, and the movement ends quietly as if exhausted by strife.
The second movement, the Geneva Variations, so named for my granddaughter, is based on a song that the three year old made up. Upon hearing the tune, I was so taken with it that I decided to use the melody as the theme in her set of variations. This movement is programmatic as may be surmised by the use of the Dies Irae in the first and last variations. The theme represents the child or the beginning, but even in childhood there is the shadow of eventual death, and this is established in the first variation where the Dies Irae is woven into the secondo part, and again in the last variation. But in between these the body of life starting with childhood (var. 2), then youth with its romances, adventures, and difficulties (var. 3), then parenthood and children (Var. 4) and finally in the fugue (var. 5) the realization of death again. However, within this variation are the recurring melodies of happy times, memories of the events of life. The program is more implied than specific, but I felt this inspiration upon hearing the theme sung by one so young.
The Geneva Variations segue into the third movement in A Major, the key of hope, with a theme that is almost like a hymn to the Resurrection. The anxieties of the previous movements are swept away by a passionate declaration of the joy of life.
Sponsored by: Jean-Paul Bierny and Fred Chaffee