George Walker

Piano Sonata, no. 4


    The basic sonority of Walker's Sonata No. 4 is the resonant ringing of octaves, seconds, and fourths, allowed to vibrate in bell-like tintinnabulation.  Such sounds open and close each of its two movements.  The composer describes the first movement as a "modified sonata form."  The exposition, comprising the bell-like material alternating with fleet passage work, "is followed by a middle section containing new material, and subsequently fragments of the first theme appear in dimunition."  The fortissimo return of the opening theme marks the start of the first movement's final stage.

    The second movement begins with an introduction marked tranquillo.   This material appears as an inversion of the principal theme of the first movement.   The highly rhythmic agitato that follows is described by the composer as a rondo with contrasting sections.  The first contrasting section, marked con eleganza, is a lyrical foil that gently concludes in a melodic sequence of descending thirds.  The motor rhythms return.  A second contrasting section, lamentoso, follows, introducing poignant references to the Spiritual, Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.  When the motor rhythms return, the spiritual briefly combines with it.  The repeated notes terminate on a powerful sustained chord.  The dissonance dissipates to a single note, "F."  The sonata closes with one last retrospective reference, marked dolce e tranquillo, to the theme heard at the very beginning of the work.