Updated: Mar 12
As the title implies, the Piano Sonata #8 in B flat minor - La Scala (The Stairway) is set in a straightforward sonata form opening with a four-bar introduction that intones the stairway motive consisting of a triad in the minor mode over a chromatically descending bass line. It is this motive that gives the sonata its’ subtitle La Scala because it represents the stairway to heaven. The sonata was composed during the Fall of the lost pandemic year of 2020 and is dedicated to pianist Marsenne Cabral who has been associated with the performance many of Domine’s compositions including the Piano Concerto #2 in C minor.
The opening motive has been the subject of recent controversial and somewhat amusing litigation. It should be noted that many musical examples using this simple harmonic formula exist in virtually every genre and style ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary popular music. Some of the song titles that come immediately to mind that employ this device are Michelle, by Paul McCartney, One, (is the loneliest number) by Harry Nilsson (covered by Three Dog Night), and most obvious and egregious of these being Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. At the end of the debate, one concludes that an harmonic progression cannot and indeed should not be copyrighted, nor should misguided attempts be made to prohibit others from using what by rights is the community property of the entire musical world.
The first theme marked Ben marcato stated in the lower register, is a slightly quirky and eccentric kind of march that reaches an half-cadence on the dominant flat-nine/seventh chord followed by an episodic passage marked Tranquillo leading to a contrastingly more passionate and energetic second theme appropriately marked Appassionato. This section drives forward moving gradually and inexorably upwards to a majestic codetta marked Maestoso that concludes the exposition in the serene upper reaches of the harmonic realms. The ensuing development consists of a bipartite sequence that unfolds in a bemused hand-over-hand dialogue between the upper and lower registers marked Poco animato followed by a demonstrative Grandioso transitional passage. The episodic tranquillo element from the exposition is then deployed as a re-transitional bridge leading us back to the return of the principal theme in the recapitulation, this time given first in the upper register before reverting to its original position in the lower register. The appassionato subordinate theme then climbs by degrees upwards into the clouds until finally the coda is reached in the highest stratosphere of the harmonic realms where the stairway idea is suggested one last time by an ascending arpeggio built on the tonic key that brings the sonata to a transcendent conclusion.
The Piano Sonata #8 in B-flat minor - La Scala made its public debut on March 7, 2021 as the fourth in a series of Sunday afternoon premiere performances of Domine’s solo piano pieces on his YouTube channel for an audience of invited listeners.