Three Pop-Sonatas

For Alto-Recorder and Piano

„Per mia carissima ottuagenaria sposa“

Let me first explain my choice of the unusual prefix "Pop-" to the generic term "Sonata". On the one hand this is my little marketing gag, with which – apparently successfully – I hoped to attract your attention. On the other hand, it is intended to head off too great expectations as to the classical seriousness of the composition. This is easy-listening, light – but not "cheap" – music, composed with great care, meant to entertain and divert. And third, "Pop-" signals that we are here within the harmonic realm of the popular music of the last century.

The character of these sonatas could be described as "epic". This does not only refer to its number of movements, which is four instead of the traditional three, but also to their relative lengths.

"Epic" in so far as these sonatas are not compositions which develop motives or themes dynamically and so are aiming at an impressive finale. Nor is their music dramatic with heavy contrasts and conflicts. The evolution of their movements resembles rather voyages through a gentle rolling country side, bare of extremes, but rewarding through its many colourful variations and rediscoveries where the travel itself is the “destination”.

In this line the third movement of each sonata is not the traditional Minuet with Trio but a Siciliano , otherwise called “Pastorale” , which means "Shepherd’s tune", the instrument of which since baroque times is in fact the recorder.

Corresponding to the gentle mood of the composition the parts avoid extreme registers and extreme tempi.

The second movements are in so far exceptions as they present moments of rest, reflection and introspection. They are transposed from my orchestral compositions, in order to "bring them home to one’s privacy", so to speak.

The difficulties for both instruments are medium. But the player of the recorder should not be "afraid" of sharps and flats. Performing the sonatas with other solo instruments – transverse flute, oboe, violin or other transposing or lower-lying instruments – is entirely possible and desirable!

To those who are willing to "embark" on this music I wish pleasant and edifying "voyages".

Hartwig Riedl

Pop-Sonata N° 1 C-Major

II. Andante

The A-section is a quite faithful replica of the slow movement of my suite for transverse flute and strings. The B-section is new. Apart from its "refreshing" change of key, it is the descending bass in the piano which must be very dominant in order to give this interlude a bit more character.

IV. Capriccio

After the "sprightly" (thanks for the term, dear Wordsworth!) beginning, the Ab-Major episode should be played very legato and possibly a bit slower.

The F-Major section meno mosso  must be played in a complete new, very slow tempo so that its harmonic "bliss" can be fully enjoyed. The ensuing piano solo is a cheeky new interpretation of the sprightly theme, but here in 6/8 time, where the quavers (eighth notes) have the same tempo of those from the theme at the beginning.

The coda features a short allusion to a nostalgic German good-night-and-fare-well song and needs "space". It ends with a hint at a well-known children’s song about that iconic bird announcing spring.

Pop-Sonata N° 1 C-Major - Audios

I Allegro

II Andante

III Siciliano

IV Capriccio

Pop-Sonata N° 2 D-Minor

II. Aria

Part A is taken from the Latin Pop-Cantata "Copa Surisca" (text after Vergil), which I wrote in 1958 for the final musical examination (Abitur ) for my class (16 young men!). It is a tenor solo on the words "Sunt et(iam) Cecropio violae de flore corollae sertaque purpurea lutea mixta rosa", which is "(Here) are we have wreaths from violets from Athens and garlands from mixed lilies and roses". The tenor is accomanied by a guitar and an alto-recorder, the latter introducing the melody and then enering a free counterpoint to the voice; which is here represented in the piano‘s right hand.

In the B-section of the original the melody is taken up by a Dixiland-band plus choir – which, here, had necessarily to be replaced – and then returns in the reprise to guitar and flute.

III. Andante and Siciliano (Larghetto)

The second movement ends in F-Major while the Siciliano  (in C-Major) begins with the dominant G7. I mitigated this rather harsh transition by introducing this short Andante . The tempo of both parts is basically "crotchet (quarter note) = 96".

But in a Siciliano ‘s 6/8-tempo we count two dotted crotchets per bar. So the tempo must be "dotted crotchet = 64" which then has been worded "Larghetto ".

Pop-Sonata N° 2 D-Minor - Audios

I Allegro moderato

II Aria

III Siciliano

IV Allegretto

Pop-Sonata N° 3 C-Minor

I. Largo - Moderato

C-minor, the naming key of this sonata, traditionally promises a dramatic piece of music. But here it is not so. After three opening chords – which we know from Pop-Sonata 2 – follows a rather melancholic opening bar, which in the next, lightens up in parallel E-flat-major, only to fall back into the minor mood, and, via G-major introduces a second go of this theme, which then, though, succeeds to introduce the main part of this movement in c-major.

So, metaphorically speaking, the morning mist has risen and given way to a "sunny day", represented by a light, ascending theme in c-major. Since bar 65 this friendly music is shortly darkened by a rude episode in d-minor – only to give way to a seraphic middle section in D-major. Then again things become rude for a short while but are followed by a reprise of the light-hearted beginning.

A quite substantial coda (since bar 169) closes this movement.

II. Nachtlied

We are now in parallel a-minor. This "Nightsong" exists also in a version for piano solo published in this edition. And there you will find an extensive explanation to it. The sole musical enrichment here in the reprise is the counterpoint to the theme by the piano in the descant (treble).

III. Siciliano

A lightly swinging theme in the recorder is accompanied by a "murmuring brook" of continuous quavers (eighths) in the piano. Then follows a transition of five bars from parallel a-minor into e-minor where the piano accompaniment becomes dominant. But it is the piano self which ends this episode abruptly with a testy, irritable chromatic motif.

It is now the recorder which takes up this sequence of running quavers (eighths), but again the piano, testily, cuts things off.

As a consequence, the instruments resort to a soothing intermezzo in crystal clear E-major. The recorder returns to the minor sequence of quavers, but the piano – little convinced – accompanies it in the spindly-lean descant – only to definitely end this attempt with its chromatic motive; but in a variant clearly stating. "Let‘s  stop this for good!"

Full of remorse, the instruments return to the pastoral idyll of the beginning, have a short attempt at the minor section, though; but there is a sudden change of tempo, time, and key and a 20-bar-coda in C-major ends this movement in a nostalgic mood.

IV. Finale

Again there are the three chords of the beginning of this sonata: a circle is about to close. At the same time their harmonies represent the keys of the different parts of this movement.

We start with an epic theme in c-minor, which is followed by a part in its major, only to be led back by our three chords to the minor beginning.

But then two abrupt bars introduce F-major and a bluesy, softly swinging episode begins. Its bass rises diatonically to the subdominant in two rounds while the recorder improvises figural lines.

After a classical interlude characterized by lively quavers we have two more rounds of the bluesy part. Then begins the reprise in c-minor, which is followed by a coda in powerful ascending chords against a descending bass, highlighted by the recorder. The coda then ends with the initial chords and so finally in soothing C-major.

Pop-Sonata N° 3 C-Minor - Audios

I Largo - Allegro moderato

II Nachtlied

III Siciliano

IV Finale

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