Violin Sonata No. 2

Year Composed: 2002
Instrumentation: violin, piano
Duration 23 minutes

I. Andante - Moderato Agitato - Allegro
II. Scherzo
III. Cadenza
IV. Andante

Audio Excerpts (MP3)

Program Notes

In this work for violin and piano I wanted to further develop certain stylistic tendencies that have manifested themselves throughout my previous work. One is a stylistic conflict between the tonal and the atonal, between consonance and dissonance. Another, which is related, is emotional contrast. Above all I had a desire to communicate the sense of an emotional journey with this work, and the particular message—the lonely spirit’s struggle for love, an essentially Romantic sensibility—that I wanted to convey required that certain stylistic barriers be breached.

The first movement follows the tried-and-true of Romantic sonata form: two contrasting main themes, a development where the themes are pitted against one another, and a heavily modified and truncated recapitulation. The music is deliberately lavish, dense, even overblown. Here the emotional conflict is repressed within the confines of traditional form, only occasionally breaking loose.

In the second movement the texture is leaner and the stylistic discrepancies more pronounced. This is a rondo/scherzo that contains an austere march, a playful first subject, and a lush trio that recalls the first movement. The sudden crashes of dissonance at the end of the movement lead into an extended solo movement for the violin. Echoes from previous movements combine with harsh, jagged sonorities; here, stripped of all pretense, the clash of tonal and atonal ideas dissolves into a furious, improvised climax.

In contrast to the other movements, the fourth movement presents a world of frozen moods and textures. Only the ghosts of previous themes remain. The middle of the movement attempts to capture a moment of warmth that escalates to grand proportions, but there is no resolution and the mood of the opening returns unchanged. The piece ends quietly and gravely in the highest registers of the violin and the lowest registers of the piano.


  • January 25, 2003 - Elizabeth Loewen, violin; Kevin Lau, piano. Walter Hall, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto (1st movement only)
  • July 26, 2003 - Amie Weiss, violin; Kevin Lau, piano. Mondavi Center Studio Theater, University of California Davis (1st movement only)
  • June 30, 2009 - Sharon Lee, violin; Kevin Lau, piano. Academy of Spherical Arts, Toronto (1st movement only)
  • September 15, 2012 - Jane Yang, violin; Talisa Blackman, piano. Gallery 345, Toronto.
  • October 9, 2012 - Jane Yang, violin; Talisa Blackman, piano. St. George Church, Guelph.

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