The Piano Sonata #12 in C minor - Quasi una Fantasia (Reflections on Water) is one of the pieces for solo piano that James Domine composed during the lost pandemic year of 2020-2001. The music of this sonata comprises a labyrinthine confluence of nature and art, as it reflects certain moods and feelings experienced while hiking along Malibu Creek in the Santa Monica Mountains, a popular pastoral refuge frequently visited by the composer. The subtitle Reflections on Water refers to the onomatopoeic representation of ripples that appear on the surface of parts of the stream that slow to form ponds where deeper waters suggest hidden mysteries. Waves expanding in concentric circles create patterns that stir a dreamlike pageant of changing colors as beams of sunlight refract to form a prismatic kaleidoscope of images.
The Piano Sonata #12 in C minor is given the additional descriptive subtitle Quasi una Fantasia because it is literally a daydream set metaphorically to music. A cascading, almost restless opening theme sets in motion a sequence of passages that suggest the inexorable flowing waters of a stream as it sparkles and splashes onward through rocky pools and open meadows. The music of the creek tells a murmuring tale of moods and emotions ranging from carefree playfulness to melancholy sadness punctuated by moments of quiet solitude as the stream runs along its course.
Through the dark green thicket on the far side, ruins of an ancient adobe testify of distant memories, of times long past and forgotten. A stonework chimney towers in the shade of trees, where welcoming fires once warmed the hands of children who played on the banks, who caught bluegill and catfish with their bare hands and waded in the pools to catch pollywogs and crawdads…They are all dead and gone long ago as the stream meanders through the dense overgrown underbrush, singing a secret song etched in the crevasses of hillsides and vales. Finally the music reaches a celebratory crescendo, the waters pass through a massive gorge where tall rocky spires flank both sides of the stream, standing like gigantic silent sentinels, forbidding further passage to the profane onlooker or those too faint of heart to brave challenges that guard the unrevealed treasures that lay beyond. The tops of these monumental stone monoliths are illuminated by a transcendent glow as the sun sets behind distant rugged peaks, the last flickering rays of twilight mirrored on the never-still, ever-flowing waters.
From start to finish this sonata is permeated with a sense of searching, as though in pursuit of the elusive source of the spring that seems always to lay just beyond the next bend of the trail that twists and turns through the canyon.
The Piano Sonata #12 in C minor - Quasi una Fantasia (Reflections on Water) made its public debut on March 28, 2021 as the eighth in a series of Sunday afternoon premiere performances of Domine’s solo piano pieces on his YouTube channel for an audience of invited listeners. For more information visit www.jamesdomine.com