NeologisticsMusicSelahA Year at Home → Sonata for Piano

While the Beatles were singing I Want To Hold Your Hand, I was composing this. Shown is the last three systems of the second movement of my Sonata for Piano. Apologies for the ugly scan. It was the best I could do given the width of my scanner.

I had become good friends with the wonderful pianist Roger Shields during my freshman year at University of Illinois, and used to sit in his practice room for an hour at a time listening to him play. He amazed me with his ability to play absolutely anything thrown in front of him. Sometime that year or early my second year I offered to write him a piece that would challenge his ability, if he would agree to perform it. He did.

It took a while, but I finally got the Sonata for Piano finished and gave a copy to Roger. Unfortunately, in his student days Roger was a bit of a rogue, in addition to being quite busy with the other stuff he was working on. Getting him to actually commit to a performance was difficult.

One time, as a joke, Roger posted a note on the music school bulletin board about music he was selling, with prices. At the bottom of the list it said: Student Piece - 50¢

Finally, he began working on it, and before long it was ready to perform. On the day of the performance that had been long-awaited by many persons in addition to just me, at a student convocation concert, he didn't show up. At the time Roger was living in the apartment across the hall from me. I went home about noontime, frustrated, wondering what happened, and supposing I probably had just cause to be mad at the guy, only to be met by my landlady, who said that an ambulance had been there to haul Roger away. He'd slipped a disk or something and was in the hospital in traction.

At long last Roger did play the piece, and he played it again on my senior recital. He also did a beautiful job. It was probably the best performance I ever got of any of my student works.

It was not until after the performance that I received the Bearns Prize for this work. Roger's attitude toward it after that was notably changed. However, because he caused me so much grief getting it played the first time, I changed the dedication to Horace Reisberg on the final edition.

Sonata for Piano