The Sonata for Piano was composed expressly for Beth Levin in the early weeks of January 2013 during a residency at the Edward MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire.
Movement one is dominated by a satirical character of extreme contrasts in dynamics, abrupt gestures, and pauses. Its organization might be described as “quasi sonata form”, since two somewhat contrasting episodes are presented before a short quiet passage introduces development of the opening episode. Then only the second theme is recapitulated, along with the quiet material that introduced the development. A chorale-like episode seems to drain all the energy from the piece, when the harsh opening chords return from a distance and with increasing vehemence end the movement.
The melancholy slow movement seems at first to be an accompaniment seeking a melody, which it eventually finds. A brief cantando episode in the bass leads to a varied return of this principle melody, concluding in a calm, rather frigid coda.
The finale consists of three rushing furioso passages in the low register, each longer and more elaborated, and each introduced by clangorous introductory gestures. Before the final furioso, a sense of hesitancy leads to a recall of the chorale music from movement one. A coda of stinging cluster chords ends the sonata with a chiming effect.