Sonata No. 2 (Evocations of Reedley, California, Mid-Century), by Larry Warkentin
This is the premier recording of Sonata No. 2 by Larry Warkentin. The composer served for many years as chair of music at Fresno Pacific University in California. Warkentin and I planned a project together in which I would perform his new piece on the campus of his institution. Our plans eventually led to the debut performance. The local critic commented as follows.
“Warkentin's Sonata consists of four movements, each featuring a different hymn tune employed as a small part of the musical material. The first movement recalled Charles Ives' use of hymn tunes by employing fragments rather than long quotations. The third movement set a melodic line consisting of all twelve notes of the chromatic scale against a comparatively tonal accompaniment. This produced a hauntingly beautiful dissonance.”
Subtitled “Evocations or Reedley, California, Mid-Century”, the composition echoes Charles Ives’ proclivity to find musical inspiration from within the daily activity of the community. Warkentin wrote, “It was not my intention to write a sonata based on hymn tunes. But as I worked on the music I would suddenly find myself recognizing a tune fragment in the musical ideas I was working with. Many of these tunes I have not sung in church for years… I was almost surprised that I could still remember many of the words and all of the melodies. So when a melody emerged I decided to enjoy it.”
Warkentin commented further. “The dissonances introduce the test of faith. If someone says they do not like the dissonant passages, I would agree to a certain extent. We don’t usually appreciate the challenges of life, the tests of faith, but God seems to think they are important and necessary. They make us stronger and they make the moments of peace much more beautiful.”
Each movement presents, in various guises, tunes from the community of Warkentin’s youth. The first movement features Rock of Ages, the second Just As I Am, the third Alas, and Should My Savior Bleed, and the finale Old Rugged Cross. This recording was made in the Recital Hall at Cedarville University.
Recording Date: March 13, 2002
Recording Location: Cedarville, Ohio
Ensemble Type: Solo Piano
Performers: John Mortensen, Piano
About the Music
Composer: Larry Warkentin
Instrumentation: Solo Piano
Place of Composition: Fresno, California
Date Composed: c. 2000
Place First Performed: Fresno Pacific University
Date First Performed: April 15, 2002
Music Styles: Modernist, Polyrhythmic/complex meters, Serialism, Tonal/modal
Sonata No. 2 (Evocations of Reedley, California, Mid-Century) 1st Movement
Sonata No. 2 (Evocations of Reedley, California, Mid-Century) 2nd Movement
Sonata No. 2 (Evocations of Reedley, California, Mid-Century) 3rd Movement
Sonata No. 2 (Evocations of Reedley, California, Mid-Century) 4th Movement
John Mortensen enjoys an unusually broad career as a performer and teacher of classical and jazz piano. His concerts may start with music of Bach, venture through several styles of music, and end with improvisation. He has performed with diverse artists such as Moscow Conservatory professor Mikhail Petukhov and All-Ireland fiddle champion Winifred Horan.
His students learn a natural and coordinated approach to piano technique, which prevents injury and allows for unprecedented freedom and facility at the keyboard. He also performs and teaches Irish and American roots music, playing mandolin, octave mandolin, Irish flute, Irish button accordion, five-string banjo, Uilleann pipes, and Irish whistle. He created America's only college-level traditional Irish music session class.
After his concert in Eisk, Russian Federation, the Russian press wrote that "... for John Mortensen Russia has always been close musically. He plays with especial passion the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff. ‘I don’t speak Russian, I speak Rachmaninoff,’ was heard from the mouth of the pianist during the concert. And truly, during the performance of the work of the great Russian composer, in the hall peoples of different nationalities disappeared — it seemed from the stage sang and wept the Russian soul. The chords of the next Rachmaninoff prelude had not even been played, and the hall was already conquered.”