Frederick Charlton: Sonata Baroque for Viola and Contrabass
I: Preludio e Allegro
II: Menuetto Allegro
III: Gigue en Rondeau
The work starts with what at first seems to be a typical Prelude, but by the eighth measure shows some harmonic twists-and-turns that foreshadow what is to come - a neo-Baroque composition that keeps an audience unsure of what is going to happen next.
After the exciting Preludio, the Allegro begins with a Fugal two-part invention that displays Mr. Charlton's contrapuntal skills. The movement then returns to the Prelude and adds a dramatic pedal-point that seems to be portending the end of the movement. Instead, it goes into a presto/coda that uses material from the allegro and is very intense indeed.
The second movement is actually two menuetti. The first one (in G-minor) mostly features the contrabass playing arpeggiated chords while the viola plays the melody. In the middle of the movement, the roles are reversed and then ends with the contrabass doing most of the work again. In the brief second menuetto (in G-major), the viola does most of the work while the bass does some clever double-stop droning. Then there is the traditional da capo to Menuetto I with an interesting coda added.
The third movement is a sprightly 6/8 gigue that demonstrates Mr. Charlton's mastery of counterpoint. After the first (D-minor) section, it goes into a contrasting A-major section that opens with an after-the-storm musical feeling, which has the viola soloing to a bass accompaniment. After returning to the first section (as rondeaus always do) with the parts reversed, the piece goes into an even more contrasting, somber Bb-minor section that makes a crafty and surprising harmonic modulation back to the original, lively theme followed by an extended coda where the composer creates a very fun an intriguing ending.
While certainly being a good showcase for the advanced contrabass soloist, it is a very playable piece that the intermediate player could use to help propel him or her to a more advanced stature. It also requires a pretty good violist.