SONATA FOR HORN AND PIANO by Halsey Stevens
INSTRUMENTATION: Horn and Piano
PUBLISHER: 1953, 1955 Robert King Music Company
Movement 1: Allegro moderato — 164 measures, approx. 5m00s
Movement 2: Poco adagio — 70 measures, approx. 4m15s
Movement 3: Aria — 223 measures, approx. 4m30s
CAN BE FOUND ON IMSLP: No
SPOTIFY: Laurence Lowe, Four American Sonatas for French Horn
iTUNES: Laurence Lowe, Four American Sonatas for French Horn
GRADE/DIFFICULTY (1 easy, 6 very difficult): 4
EXTENDED TECHNIQUES: Hand Stopping (+), Lip Trills
RANGE (horn pitch):
Halsey Stevens (1908 – 1989) published what Verne Reynolds like to call a sonata highly representative of music written at mid century by those American composers who were not persuaded to follow in the theoretical footsteps of Arnold Schoenberg. Stevens taught at a multitude of universities and colleges, most notably was his tenure at the University of Southern California from 1946 to 1976. He was a Bartók scholar writing a book entitled The Life and Music of Béla Bartók whose first edition was published the same year of the writing of this sonata indicating his inclination to include bits Bartók’s compositional prowess within his own compositions. Stevens is a celebrated composer, educator, and author having his works played and recorded all over the world, having been published in over a dozen scholarly journals, and having taught at nine institutions and received countless awards, accolades, and grants.
His Sonata for Horn and Piano opens with a broad and heroic line in the horn with stately underpinnings in the piano. This particular piece is a wonderfully conversational piece due to the composers detail regarding the chamber relationship of the two instruments. The first movement then moves into a darker and more introspective second movement which spends a lot of time in the mid register at or just below the treble clef staff which can be a challenge to some players to bring out the vocal qualities of the movement due to the projection difficulties in that register. The third movement takes on the characteristic hunting feel due to the 6/8 feel. Composers from Mozart to Hindemith used this time signature in their third movements and Stevens has done so as well. The third movement is a wonderfully constructed conversation ending with fervor up to a high C!