Sonata Da Chiesa
Composed by Brian Joyce
Published by Cimarron Music Press
Includes score and parts
Flute, Oboe, Clarinet (A or Bb), Bassoon, and Harpsichord
I. Adagio – Es ist ein' Ros entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming)
(source: Alte Chatholische Geistliche Kirchengesang, Cologne, 1599)
II. Allegretto – Vom Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her (From Heaven Above to Earth I Come)
(source: Geistliche Lieder, Leipzig, 1539, attr. Martin Luther)
III. Andante – Joseph lieber, Joseph mein (Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine)
(source: Catholisch Cantual, Mainz, 1605)
IV. Allegro – In Dulci Jubilo (Good Christian Men, Rejoice)
(source: Piae Cantiones, 1582)
The Sonata da Chiesa, or “church sonata,” was one of several new musical genres which appeared during the early to middle Baroque. At a time when much musical instrumental music was intended for dancing, the theater and entertainment, the Sonata da Chiesa was more of a serious, abstract concert piece, making it the direct ancestor of the sonata as it has come down to us through Beethoven, Brahms and Bartok. The earlier form had some distinctive features, of course. For one thing, four movements were standard, in the order slow-fast-slow-fast. For another, these sonatas were usually written for one or more melody instruments (nearly always strings) and continuo. In the present reworking of the old form, the harpsichord is more of an equal partner in the proceedings and I found that woodwinds gave more of the neoclassical flavor I was after.
For my sonata I have taken this Italian baroque form and based each movement on German Christmas tunes from the 16th century. Attentive ears may also notice elements from French music history, ranging from the Ars Nova to Darius Milhaud. So there is a pan-European, polystylistic blending of all sorts of things here. There is quite a bit of rule-breaking as well; perhaps that is the distinctly American contribution.
The first movement is a brief introductory Adagio which functions something like the matte around a painting, creating a gateway to the world within. The second is built like a baroque chorale prelude with the flute singing out phrases of the cantus firmus over an independent texture extablished by the other instruments. The third movement wraps a simple cradle song in a delicate polytonal haze, resulting in a sound which one friend has described as “like hearing a kaleidoscope,” with bits and pieces constantly breaking apart and reforming. The last movement, a 9/8 gigue, skips along like a happy child until the closing measures which fairly sparkle off the page.