CHRISTOPHER TARNOW (b.1984): Sonatas for Theremin and Piano Nos. 1 and 2, Intermezzi for Theremin and Piano Nos. 1 and 2.
Catalogue Number: 10R082
Reference: GEN 15363
Description: Tarnow joins a small but distinguished group of composers who have written original works of real substance for the unique, almost-century-old electronic instrument. These predominantly tonal, neo-romantic sonatas might almost be described as 'conventional' insofar as they adopt standard forms and musical argument, treating the theremin as the impressively versatile solo instrument it is, capable of sensitively responsive expression, rather than as an oddity suited to special effects. Eyck plays an advanced and refined instrument capable of a wide range of articulation (including an impressive staccato 'touch') and very accurate pitch control in fast successions of notes; she has also explored, in collaboration with the composer, the development of advanced techniques for the instrument, including the restrained but effective use of electronic effects, for example to allow the originally monodic instrument to play fixed intervals. The first sonata is in three movements, with virtuosic writing for both instruments - both sonatas are very much duos, further removing them from the sphere of 'funny noises with some sort of accompaniment' - with cogent motivic development and a recurring chorale anchoring the movements, while the second is even more impressive, with a grand opening gesture from the piano prefacing all three movements, of which the second is a somberly beautiful passacaglia, and the finale a playful fugato. The Intermezzi are freely rhapsodic, the second a long melodic line (the fact that the theremin neither needs to breathe nor change bowings makes it especially good at this, as well as sustained climactic gestures), and while both allow a small homage to the Theremin's sci-fi connotations, this is more in the nature of a clarinet work alluding to jazz, for example, than a condescension to any perceived stereotyping of the instrument. In a charmingly homespun bonus video Eyck succinctly explains the challenges and possibilities of composing for the Theremin, which hopefully will encourage other composers to take up the gauntlet and produce more works of this caliber. Carolina Eyck (theremin), Christopher Tarnow (piano).