JAVS Summer 2023

With Viola In Hand

An Anonymous American Viola Sonata Wolfgang Sawodny, Elohinger, West Germany

Fifteen years ago, I was able to acquire the manuscript of a sonata for viola and piano at a New York Shop for used music. It is a rather interesting piece, supposedly dating fro the first quarter of our century, in a late romantic style, with only one serious omission: though there are several names on the wrapper and on the manuscript, none of them seems to be that of the composer. Therefore, let me give a short description of the work, hoping that someone might be able to identify the author. The manuscript is in a light gray pasteboard wrapper, with the following handwritten inscriptions on the front side: right upper corner: “Embree Swift” cross out and replaced below by “Roland Farley (both names in ink); below Farley’s name is in pencil, “57st+7Ave.” middle of upper half: “For Mr. Bahr/ (c/o Managing (?) Director)/Philharmonic Orchestra” (in pencil; bracketed line rubbed out, but still readable) The viola part is on nine sheets of music paper with 10 staves, G. Schirmer, New York (the upper-case letters GSNY in a crosse square) no.1. On the front page is the inscription, upper left corner: “Viola.” In the middle of the upper half, it reads: “Sonata for Viola & Piano in A Minor,” all in black ink. Between the sixth and seventh stave on the right, there are traces of a label which was pasted on, perhaps containing the composer’s name, but now torn out. The heading of the second page repeats the inscription of the front page followed by “1st movement.” The starts the viola part, 16 pages long; the last page is blank.

The piano part is on paper, “The Superb,” A.W. Tama Music Library, New York No. 3 with 12 staves in 4 groups of 3 staves each (two for the piano with a bracket and one additionally staff above). Each movement is in a separate unit sewed together. They are: 1. Title page (same text as the viola part, only “Piano” is written in the upper right corner instead of “Viola” in the left one; also traces of a torn out, pasted label); blank second page; 17 pages of music in the first movement; last page blank. 2. 2nd movement: 7 pages and one line of music; at top of the front page is a pencil marking, “Viola Embree Seift.” 3. 3rd movement: 15 pages of music followed by 3 blank pages; pencil marking above the right of the first staff: “Embree Swift.” Most likely, Embree Swift was the player of the viola part. Roland Farley, mentioned on the wrapper, may have obtained the manuscript from him. The calligraphy and the absence of corrections indicate that is not the original composer’s manuscript but a copy made for the purpose of a performance. The first movement is in sonata form, but with the peculiarity that the exposition and recapitulation are in a slow tempo (Adagio sostenuto, quarter note = 80) and only the development section in allegro (half note = 88; later on quarter note = 112 and 126). The movement starts with a one-bar motive (Ex.1) by the piano, repeated six times and falling down three octaves, always in fortissimo, anticipating rhythms of the second part of the main theme (a-b of Ex. 2 II ). This is stated by the viola over a semiquaver accompaniment of the piano with some contrapuntal bass writing. It has a total length of sixteen measures, starting with a broad melody (“with full singing ton”) (Ex. 2 I ) having a nucleus of characteristic rhythms (Ex. 2 II ) and ending in a more rapid motion (Ex. 2 III ). Then comes the second

Journal of the American Viola Society / Vol. 39, Summer 2023 Online Issue


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