Sonata for Trumpet and Piano, Eric Ewazen

Sonata for trumpet and piano

Eric Ewazen

Eric Ewazen was born in 1954 in Cleveland, Ohio. Receiving a Bachelor of Music at the Eastman School of Music, and Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from The Juilliard School, where his teachers included Milton Babbitt, Samuel Adler, Warren Benson, Joseph Schwantner, and Gunther Schuller. His works have been commissioned and performed by many soloists, chamber ensembles and orchestras in the United States and overseas. Recent premieres of his orchestral works have been given by the Charleston Symphony, West Virginia Symphony, Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife in Spain, Orquesta Sinfonica Carlos Chavez in Mexico City, Orchestre de la Garde Republicaine in Paris, and the Moment Musicale Orchestra of Taiwan. Orchestral performances of Mr. Ewazen’s music have recently been given by the Juilliard Symphony, Stow Chamber Orchestra, Flower Mound Chamber Orchestra, Birmingham Philharmonic, Illinois Symphony, Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon Le’Zion, Honolulu Symphony, Mankato Symphony and the Everett Symphony.

Recent wind ensemble premieres include his Bassoon Concerto for the University of Florida, a Euphonium Concerto (for Robert Grechesky and the Butler University Wind Ensemble), Visions of Light for Joseph Alessi and the Indiana University Wind Ensemble. He was also commissioned to write a Trumpet Concerto, Danzante, for Allen Vizzutti by CBDNA which was premiered in Reno, Nevada in March, 2004 by the Intercollegiate Wind Ensemble. In January, Southern Landscapes was premiered by the University of Georgia Wind Ensemble at the Georgia Music Educators Convention in Savannah.

He has been a guest at almost one hundred universities and colleges throughout the world in recent years including, Curtis, Eastman, Peabody, Indiana University, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Texas, University of Hawaii, Birmingham Conservatory, the Conservatory of Santa Cruz, and Boston Conservatory. Internationally, his music has been performed by the Orchestre National de Lille in France, the Milano Classica Sinfonica in Italy, the Brisbane Philharmonic in Australia, South Arkansas Symphony, Stow Chamber Orchestra, the Midland-Odessa Symphony, and the Bangkok Philharmonic.

His works are recorded on Summit Records, d’Note Records, CRS Records, New World, Clique Track, Helicon, Hyperion, Cala, Albany and EMI Classics. Two solo CDs featuring his chamber music are available on Well-Tempered Productions. Three additional solo CDs, one featuring his orchestral music, another his music for low brass instruments, and a third, his music for string orchestra, are available on Albany Records. A sixth solo CD of his music for percussion is available on Resonator Records. New World Records has released his concerto for brass quintet, Shadowcatcher, with the American Brass Quintet and The Juilliard Wind Ensemble, conducted by Mark Gould of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Individual works of Eric Ewazen have recently been released by the Ahn Trio, Julie Giacobassi of the San Francisco Symphony, Charles Vernon of the Chicago Symphony, Koichiro Yamamoto of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Ronald Barron of the Boston Symphony, Doug Yeo of the Boston Symphony, Steve Witser of the Cleveland Orchestra, Joe Alessi and Philip Smith of the New York Philharmonic, the Horn Section of the New York Philharmonic, the Summit Brass and the American Brass Quintet. His music is published by Southern Music Company, International Trombone Association Manuscript Press, Keyboard Publications, Manduca Music, Encore Music, Triplo Music, and Brass Ring Editions.

The Trumpet Sonata is approximately twenty minutes long, making one of the longest standard works for trumpet ever to gain widespread popularity. The work was commissioned by the International Trumpet Guild in 1993 and received its premiere at the 1995 International Trumpet Guild Conference at Indiana University by Chris Gekker, with the composer on piano. The writing is within the standard tessitura and technical abilities of the trumpet (albeit long), however Ewazen himself notes that the piano writing is among his most difficult.

In the first movement, Ewazen’s collaboration with Gekker produced a highly lyrical trumpet line atop an energetic contour of arpeggiated sixteenth notes throughout much of the first movement, punctuated by thick openly orchestrated chords and soaring, often acrobatic trumpet fanfares. The opening melancholy theme flowing softly between the trumpet and piano elicits thoughts of a rainy day then takes the audience into a series of nostalgic visions of travel through the New England countryside, laughter and sorrow brought on by adolescent love and grief, fond memories of childhood afternoons spent playing with a favorite toy, then finally returns us to reality privy to a new, more serene outlook. The movement captures the frightening pain of reflection upon one’s own inadequacies and mistakes, as well as the triumph and peace of acquiescence to one’s humanity.

The second movement opens with a scene of neoclassical pastorale, trading a subtly Celtic melody between the trumpet and piano before taking us through soft-spoken thematic vicissitudes. These scenes remind the listeners of the small but meaningful victories found in the routine of life. These constructs are interrupted by a vivid prayer section preceding the return of the final first theme. One cannot help but notice the similarities between Ewazen’s work and the structure and texture of the second movement Haydn’s own trumpet concerto.

The final movement captures an intricately more rhythmic writing than is seen in the rest of the work. The movement starts with a true neoclassical ‘rocket,’ a prefix tone row that is never again seen—in fact, Ewazen writes, the movement originally started in what is now the sixth bar, the first five having been added to provide an extra rhythmic jolt. From there, Ewazen takes us into a loose rondo, alternating between rhythmic partitas and the first theme in various balances and instrumentations. Finally, Ewazen finishes his sonata with an energetic coda that utilizes all of the things that sets the trumpet/piano combination apart from all others—range, breadth, energy, and dexterity.