Sonata No. 3 for cello and piano (“Moon”)


"The harmony in this cello sonata reflects the influence of jazz, but in a way that avoids a predictable outcome."


Beck's third cello sonata "sings with elegance and uncompromising identity[.]"

- Daniel Gilliam
Louisville Music News

"In [the third movement,] ... Beck plays a witty hand, formally speaking. The missing‚ third section of the second movement is unexpectedly introduced and is followed, in turn, by the absent‚ repeat of the aria from the first movement. This neat way of belatedly keeping the formal promises‚ made earlier is a nice example of how traditions can be (and always are) made new by gifted composers."

- Glyn Pursglove
MusicWeb International

My third cello sonata has a subtitle: “Moon.” Additionally, each of the three movements carries both a heading and an ending title.  The headings are classical references, suggesting historical derivations and structural nuances; the endings are poetic, all of which are connected to the primary image of the sonata.  The poetry is meant to open emotional windows into the interior of the piece, rather than suggest specific visual cues.

“Aria da Capo (…sings upon waking.)” begins with an aria for the cello, accompanied by a simple ostinato in the piano.  However, this ostinato is deceptively simple, for within it one may find the seeds for the other two movements of the piece.  The middle section of this movement becomes much more rhythmic, with jazz-like interplay between the instruments.  This “middle section” actually ends the movement, and the expectation of a da capo aria (the return of the aria) is unfulfilled for the moment.

“Pavane (…receives a Princess.)” is also in a suggested ternary form.  Here, the A sections demonstrate a reinterpretation of the first movement’s texture, with another melody in the cello supported by an ostinato accompaniment.  The B section continues the opening flow of the music, but at twice the tempo, giving the music a sense of almost boundless rushing.  There is a brief coda which brings back the opening tempo but again – as in the first movement – there is no true return.

The last movement, “Galliard (…observes the precious foibles of the Earth.),” begins with a fast, chromatic figure in the piano which soon is varied as it continues.  Simultaneously, but in longer rhythmic values, this figure becomes the cello’s principal melody.  The form of this movement is rhapsodic and as it unfolds, certain pauses or interludes occur along the way.  The first interlude is a brief digression for the solo cello, an unaccompanied meditation on the principal figure.  After this, the fast music continues until we reach a moment which suggests the next interlude.  Instead, the final statement of the second movement is heard and this is then followed by the da capo aria of the first movement, which had been left unfulfilled.  It is as if the final movement’s fast music carries on, spinning into silence, while the musicians at hand revisit unfinished thoughts.

Sonata No. 3 (“Moon”) was composed in 1997 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  It was premiered on a National Association of Composers USA-New York concert at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church in New York City on 21 March 1999 by Grace Lin (cello) and Steven Huter (piano).  It is dedicated to my former composition professor at Duke, Stephen Jaffe.

Recorded by Emilio Colón (cello) and Heather Coltman (piano), this composition is available on my 2006 CD, pause and feel and hark (innova, 650). The video below captures a beautiful performance by Zoe Wallace, cello, and Julie Sargeant, piano, presenting the Australian premiere at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, 4 March 2012.

You may order this composition below; if you would like to order a complete set of all three of my cello sonatas (scores and parts), please email me directly.

cello, piano
Date completed:
ca. 13:30

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pause and feel and hark

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