In my earlier piano sonatas I occasionally wished that the soloist could grow an extra hand to manage all of the requisite notes. In the long run, adding an extra player seemed more prudent, and it now seems odd to me that the “four hand sonata” has enjoyed so little popularity since the nineteenth century. This is my first attempt to make a concert work of solid substance using those two extra hands which, by playing on the same (well-maintained and tuneful) instrument, have a distinct advantage over their ‘duo’ brethren if the two instruments concerned aren't perfectly attuned to each other.
The work falls into five sections played without a break. The extended, heavily rhythmic Prelude opens with a declamatory introduction revolving around a sequence of 16-note chords which, in just two bars, sound 65 of the 88 notes on the keyboard. This leads to a gentle Waltz demanding great flexibility and sensitivity from the players. The central section, Deuces, methodically explores the 6 unique (non-directional) pairings of 4 hands: 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 2-3, 2-4 and 3-4. Each pair shares, in turn, a leading melody while the remaining two hands provide mellifluous interlinking accompaniments.
The pairings evolve into a short, energetic bridge passage that falls precipitously to a reflective Meditation luxuriating in the sonorous resonance of a piano keyboard caressed by 20 fingers. This is succeeded by a fast-paced Toccata in triplet rhythms that progresses to a pounding finale.
It is 'pure' music with no specific accompanying narrative or poetic allusion.
Carl Vine, 8 October 2009
ERRATUM: please note - bar 531, player 2, 3rd beat should be B-flat.