Sonata for Organ

Sonata for Organ


a three-movement sonata for solo organ (19')

Add PDF to Cart

in three movements

Completed in October, 2005. Revised in March, 2010.

Commissioned by: the Hanson Institute for American Music of the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester. World premiere by Tim Pyper on May 4, 2006.


This Sonata for organ is modelled after the large single-movement organ works of the late Romantic period, especially those of Liszt, Reubke, and Reger. Though it is here broken into three movements, the whole Sonata is based on a single motif: the rising major triad with an added flat-sixth. This leitmotif reappears obsessively in many different rhythmic, harmonic, and textural guises.

In the first movement, the unadorned theme rises from the depths of the instrument, establishing a mood of reticence and mystery. This haze is then obliterated by a raging con fuoco section which transforms the theme into complex harmonies, interspersed with diabolical fanfares. The movement then dissolves into the distance once again, fading away with quick gestures in the highest and lowest registers of the instrument. The second movement casts the theme in a softer, more lyrical light. Long-spun melodies unfurl over soft beds of accompanying strings and principals. As the lines weave and tangle, however, the texture thickens, and the movement ends in a dramatic alternation of loud and soft: the full organ contrasted with a single flute stop. The final movement transforms the theme into an exciting, virtuoso fugue in four voices. The musical lines leap and bubble in active counterpoint, culminating in the Tuba stop’s glorious half-tempo rendering of the theme. After more cascading fanfares, the work’s fortissimo final chords dissolve from dissonance to consonance.

The Sonata for organ was commissioned in 2005 by the Hanson Institute for American Music of the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester for premiere on the E.M. Skinner organ at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rochester, NY, by Tim Pyper. 


This excerpt, the Sonata's closing Fugato, is from a performance by Tim Pyper at St. James Cathedral, Toronto.