About Dan D'Addio's New Recording: Sonatas for Trumpet and Piano

Donald H. White’s Sonata for trumpet and piano (1946) rests firmly in the collection of mid-century trumpet sonatas by composers such as Paul Hindemith (1939) and Kent Kennan (1956).  They all share a similar language and structure, a post-tonal quartal modality, but, after an opening fanfare, they quickly reveal each composers own personality.

The first movement’s opening salvo in the White Sonata quickly shifts into a falling chromatic melody. Following a classic Sonata-Allegro first movement form, the second theme is a little slower, and less bravura, offering a quieter contrast. The first theme’s fanfare returns in the development with a virtuosic display of rapid tounging and acrobatic twists and turns. The movement end with a varied return to the two main themes.

The second movement is a much sparer, darker, view of the world; being through-composed in a 3-part structure, but without the typical return of the first part. It end with a high, soft, held note, slowly fading away.

The final movement returns with a spirited Rondo that is exuberant with fanfare and virtuosity. The main, recurring, theme begins with a more prolonged fanfare that ascends to the trumpet’s nominal high note. Instead of winding its way down chromatically, as in the first movement, it playfully skips down to its end. That almost laughing figure is the basis for the next section, before it returns to a variation of the opening. The piano takes the lead role for the next contrasting section, allowing the trumpet some respite before returning, once more, with the opening theme of the movement and driving to the end with a note higher yet.

The Sonata was written just after WWII, in which White served and was decorated before being shot down and serving over a year in a prison camp. The Sonata’s movements seem to reflect his wartime experiences with the first serving as a call to arms, the second, his time as a prisoner of war, and the third celebrating the end of the war.

White, born in 1921, studied with Vincent Persichetti, Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson; receiving degrees from Temple University and the Eastman School of Music. He was a longtime faculty member of DePauw University for most of his career, before moving to Central Washington University on 1981. He died at the age of 95 in 2016.

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