Sonata for Clarinet & Piano
This sonata is one of Beeler’s most animated and energetic, and makes one of the strongest cases for the playfulness that seems to underlie so many of Beeler’s compositions.
The work opens brashly with fanfare-like piano chords that give way to jaunty counterpoint between the clarinet and the accompanist. The second movement is a standout in all of Beeler’s output for its use of swing, and a more jazz-like harmonic language that demands to be heard as a stylistic allusion.
The work’s penchant for references continues in its delightful closing movement, which is dominated by syncopated rhythmic figures suggestive of ragtime.
Something More Cheerful Suite - Variations on a Well-Known Tune
As cheerful as it is inquisitive, Beeler’s wittiest offering utilizes a vibraphone to achieve a sense of twinkling wonderment. The piece ebbs and flows across five movements and demands different intent behind each stroke of the mallet.
At times, Beeler frames the vibraphone’s radiant tone in segments of definitive, confident stamps of sound divided by interludes of flittering notes. But at other moments, he flips the script, presenting drizzling notes broken up by thundering accents. Beeler provides his final segmentation with pockets of subdued playing that are as comforting as they are mysterious.
Flute & Piano Sonata
Beeler allows both the piano and flute to share the spotlight in the album’s airiest sonata. In a Spring-themed stroll, a swaying flute intertwines with methodical piano notes, coming together into a soft, pleasant array.
In this way, Beeler sets the piano as a foundation for the flute more so than any of his other sonata pairings. Elsewhere, Beeler has the piano cushion the starker sonics of its counterparts, such as the brass pieces of Sonata for Bass Trombone and Piano, English Horn Sonata and The Octatonic Tuba – Sonata for Tuba and Piano. Conversely, the way in which the flute occupies the upper heights of the performance on Flute & Piano Sonata allows the piano to act as a solid structural component.
My Identity Suite
This short, self-referential piece fits alongside Beeler’s other solo piano music, particularly in terms of its musical language. For example, the work opens with disjunctive melodic material exactly in the same manner as Beeler’s Fit ’06 and the 3 Early Pieces for Solo Piano.
The Suite also makes further testimony for Beeler’s skill at composing miniatures. Its three short episodes share an attentiveness to register and texture, which are qualities the composer exploits in his other solo piano music. Most notably, the motives at the heart of the My Identity Suite appear to be based on clear rhythmic relationships, which marks a turn from some of his other compositions.
English Horn Sonata
Unlike Beeler’s other sonatas, his English Horn Sonata gives the piano and English horn soloist seemingly equal roles in the music. Beeler is fond of clear arrangements of melody-and-accompaniment in his sonatas, and breaks with this tendency in this work by giving the piano more active accompaniments against elegant, languid English horn melodies.
Overall, the English Horn Sonata seems to occupy a place in between Beeler’s sonatas for oboe and bassoon. This work heavily features imitation between the piano and soloist, like the Sonata de Camera, but has a more fluid musical language that evokes the Oboe Sonata.
This work exploits texture more than most of the other pieces in this collection. An episodic composition, like the Sonata for Tuba and Piano, Beeler’s Microtonal Suite defines its form through contrasts in the density of the piano part, which varies from thick chords to extended, isolated melodies.
Underlying the different types of material Beeler explores in this work is a clear interest in the sound of the piano, and an attempt to explore new ways the instrument can express delicate, solemn, and understated ideas.
This work may be one of Beeler’s most unique, as it blends inclinations present in other works in his catalog. The first movement of the sonata, for example, mirrors the oboe and piano parts precision that heightens the level of imitation found in his other sonatas for piano and wind or brass instruments.
Beeler’s musical language is more fluid than in other pieces. To this end, the sonata is defined by shifts between a softened form of Beeler’s typically dissonant style to suddenly clearer harmonies, including triads, at important structural moments.
3 Early Pieces for Solo Piano
This set of piano miniatures excels in its realization of short-form musical composition. Each movement is based on compact, malleable ideas from which Beeler draws distinct and charming musical worlds. Like Beeler’s other multi-movement works, 3 Early Pieces for Solo Piano employs a fairly traditional somewhat fast-slow-faster form. Unlike, some of Beeler’s later works, 3 Early Pieces for Solo Piano features a decidedly angular and abstract musical language with little homage to nineteenth century styles or techniques. However, the clarity of Beeler’s structural designs lends approachability to each movement of 3 Early Pieces for Solo Piano.
Sonata de Camera
As the title of this piece suggests, this work is meant to make a reference to Baroque music – the era when ‘sonatas de camera’ first emerged as a musical form. Beeler removes all doubt about the presence of this allusion only minutes into the work’s first movement when he writes a fugue – a contrapuntal technique developed during the Baroque period – for the bassoon and piano.
The content rest of the piece is less directly related to this historical influence, but bears evidence of the work’s overall reference nonetheless. Beeler’s softens his musical language and draws on harmonic and melodic ideas much closer to those found in Baroque music than in some of Beeler’s other chamber and solo compositions.
Beeler’s Fit ’06
The other brief piece which showcases Beeler’s long running interest in short compositions is Beeler’s Fit ’06. This piece is an extremely curious work that shares with the Etude, and 3 Early Pieces for Solo Piano, some of Beeler’s most abstract and dissonant musical ideas.
Sonata for Bass Trombone and Piano
Beeler’s Sonata for Bass Trombone and Piano is notable for its intimate rendering of the bass trombone, which is most often employed in bombastic orchestral music. The sparse instrumental setting of this piece enables Beeler to access something very rare: the bass trombone’s ability to express tenderness and vulnerability.
Beeler explores these more intimate personality traits of the bass trombone in the sonata’s first two movements, both of which are relatively somber and predominantly lyrical. The sonata’s final movement, however, unleashes the bass trombone as the brass leviathan we more regularly encounter in the concert hall.
While the piano accompanies a variety of instruments on the Beeler’s other works on the album, the instrument’s eponymous sonata sees it standing alone for a performance of four brief but impactful vignettes. A familiar phrase reminiscent of urgent footsteps persists throughout the opening movement before slowing to a calmer pace in the following segment. The third movement escalates again to a jaunty skip across the keys, before the final piece settles on a confident stride in the sonata’s closing descent.
The Octatonic Tuba – Sonata for Tuba and Piano
In this unusual one movement sonata, Beeler excels at making space for the tuba as a melodic force, which is one of the greatest challenges of writing for tuba and other instruments. Beeler also succeeds at showing off the tuba’s surprising lyrical potential, and composes dark and compelling melodies to exploit this characteristic of the instrument.
Within the context of Beeler’s other sonatas, this piece employs an extremely irregular form, which is constituted by a succession of short, unrelated episodes. Each different and beautifully designed, these micro-movements once more show off Beeler’s talent for brief musical forms.
12-Tone Quartal Etude
One of two extremely brief works, The 12-Tone Quartal Etude evidences Beeler’s experimentation with different styles, which is reflected by other stylistically provocative works of his, such as the Sonata de Camera and Sonata for Clarinet and Piano.
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