My Fourth Sonata was composed at a time when I’d come under the influence of the process music of Reich and Riley of the 60s and early 70s. But the influence is only to be felt in certain aspects of the musical material and its development, not on the structure or (for the most part) rhythm and instrumentation.
Though the building blocks of the piece are tiny – just four three-note cells – the musical fabric is contrastingly expansive, and defied by clearly differentiated ‘colours’ of orchestration. The first and third sections balance each other as a kind of winding up and winding down of tension – the former starting out from a single note and expanding out to the whole orchestra, the latter a relaxed echo of the opening, in warm colours and diatonic (though unresolved) harmony. The central (and much the largest) section mirrors internally the tripartite division of the whole – a slow melodic intensification, a night-marish centre, and a relaxation of tension with the strings building out of the three-note cells the only sustained melody of the work.
The Fourth Sonata won the Scottish National Orchestra’s 1975 Ian Whyte Award, and was first performed by them under Alexander Gibson in Edinburgh in April 1976. The first American performance was given in August 1988 by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, conducted by Oliver Knussen.
The score was renotated in 1995-6, but the music remains essentially the same.
Published by Novello.