[Ben Phelps looks at a crane]

Sonata for Flute and Piano...a romance

2007. Commissioned by flutist Alaina Bercilla. 30 minutes

In three movements
I. Turangalîla
II. Lament, Canticle
III. Lullaby

Turangalîla is a compound of two sanskrit words, which Olivier Messiaen invented to describe his monumental, 70 minute symphony by the same name. Neither Turanga nor Lila has a simple, literal meaning, but combined Messiaen defined it as a “love song and hymn of joy, time, movement, rhythm, life, and death.” The concept stems from Messiaen’s fascination with the transcendental love of Tristan and Isolde, and ever the transcendentalist himself, he set out to compose a piece where the joy was "superhuman, overflowing, dazzling and abandoned.”

Of course the point of the myth, and the reason why it so fascinated Messiaen, is that the love is so superhuman and overflowing that it ends up killing Isolde for no physical reason. In the Turangalîla symphony, the individual movements entitled “Turangalîlas” (there are three of them) end up representing “the darker side of love,” or in other words, death.

In my flute sonata, this is where we begin, and it is up to the rest of the piece to sort it out. The second movement, Lament, Canticle (perhaps more appropriately titled "Canticle, Lament, Canticle") represents first a reflective then a reflexive response to the first movement. After a brief interlude- a remembrance of the turbulence of the Turangalîla- the final movement seeks closure and rest.

View a sample of the score.

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