I have long loved Saint-Saënsʼs late oboe sonata; itʼs a tremendously personal work, suffused with the wisdom and clarity that comes with old age. Its first movement springs from the simplest ideas and unfolds patiently, like a blossom. I started with the same close-spaced D major triad in the piano, and let my music develop as it would, with few pre-conditions or formal premonitions. When George Crumb died on February 6, I ended what I thought was the first movement of my sonata in a perfunctory manner; a more obviously memorial second movement quickly fizzled out, and I abandoned the piece.
My formal studies with Crumb were brief, though we remained close. I completed just one piece while studying with him, a Nocturne for flute, violin, viola, and ʻcello that wasnʼt so much inspired by his beloved Chopin as it was by his thoughts on Chopin. That piece caused me a lot of trouble; when I finally returned to my Impromptu, expanding it by a little more than half and casting it in a more intelligible form, I was reminded of that experience.
Impromptu was composed for oboist ToniMarie Marchioni and pianist Jacob Coleman.