for Michael Partington
III Adagio sostenuto
British composer Stephen Goss’s three-movement Sonata was written in 2006 for guitarist Michael Partington. As outlined in the introductory information in this edition, it draws inspiration from four masterworks of the sonata repertoire: Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp; Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in D minor, K141; and two of Beethoven’s late piano sonatas, Sonata in E major, Op. 109 and Sonata in C minor, Op. 111. In addition to subtly using thematic and textural material from these canonic works in his Sonata, Goss allows the piece to be guided by components of these composers’ overall aesthetics, resulting in an interesting journey through three contrasting styles of approach to sonata composition. The opening movement borrows ideas of proportionality and modal harmony from Debussy, the second uses a moto perpetuo texture of fast repeated notes initially inspired by Scarlatti, and the third mirrors Beethoven’s affinity for theme and variation with a double variation structure. Goss writes thoughtfully that resonance figures prominently in this work, not just “historical resonance” but also the “characteristic acoustic resonance of the guitar itself”. To this end, several of the textures in the work employ campanella fingerings that imitate the sostenuto pedal on a piano, allowing harmonies to overlap into each other.
Stephen Goss’s Sonata traverses three approaches to sonata writing and brings them together in a cohesive manner. The work possesses a good balance between virtuosic elements and lyricism, and is idiomatically written for the instrument, taking advantage of the guitar’s strengths without being a slave to its limitations or clichés. The edition is very well presented, with excellent engraving, helpful fingerings and editing, and clear notation of all irregular elements. It is a worthwhile addition to the repertoire and library of serious guitarists.
Dan Lippel (Soundboard Magazine, vol.41, No.3)