Published: Sept. 30, 2010

cdDavid Korevaar and Geraldine Walther have collaborated on this new CD release. Information from MSR Classics below:


TRUE DIVIDED LIGHT for Viola and Piano
SONATA for Cello and Piano


True Divided Light is an architectural term for a window constructed of multiple panes of glass, where each pane is individually set in its own mullions, or dividers. The earliest known true divided light windows were fitted with thin pieces of alabaster set between dividers of lead or stone. In the fifth century, rondels—discs of spun glass—were connected to form larger expanses of light. The concept continued to evolve into the huge multicolored rose windows of Notre Dame and, in our century, entire buildings constructed with glass exteriors.

True Divided Light is a work of absolute music. There is no specific program. But the term suggests a number of evocative metaphors: light versus darkness, a window into the soul, and, in the case of stained glass, refracted colors juxtaposed to convey meaning and emotion. In two contrasting movements of equal duration, True Divided Light is conceived as a succession of emotional states varying in mood and intensity. The first movement, Lento luminoso, presents three main ideas: a series of pensive chords followed by a broad, soulful melody for the viola, then a hymn-like arpeggiated section marked mistico, and a third idea in which figurations in the piano are mirrored by the viola at a much slower speed. The movement closes with the mistico music. The second movement also contains three main ideas. The first, Presto strepitoso, is characterized by exhuberant triplet figures and builds to a thundering climax before settling down. The character changes with the appearance of a folk-like tune (inspired by music heard from a street musician playing a Hardanger fiddle in St. Petersburg, Russia), and the mood transforms again with a radiant, lyrical melody. A variation of the triplet music returns, more insistent this time, and the piece hurtles energetically towards its conclusion, ending with a cascade of scales and a series of bright, triumphant chords.

True Divided Light is the first work commissioned by Noe Valley Chamber Music and was made possible by grants from the Carol Franc Buck Foundation and the American Composers Forum, SF Chapter. The work is dedicated to Carol Franc Buck, a longtime supporter of Mr. Carlson’s music.

The Cello Sonata was commissioned by Chamber Music America for cellist Emil Miland and pianist Robin Sutherland. It is the first of many significant collaborations between Carlson and Miland, which include Nocturno, a motet-concerto in Renaissance style for cello and eight-part male chorus, commissioned and first performed by Miland and the famed vocal ensemble Chanticleer; Cello Concerto No. 1, Cello Concerto No. 2, premiered by Miland and the Bay Area’s New Century Chamber Orchestra, and the brief elegiac work Vocalise. Fifteen years separate the Sonata for Cello and Piano from True Divided Light, and though obviously by the same composer, they differ greatly in their stylistic temperments: while the viola work is boisterous and outgoing, the Sonata is inward-looking and contemplative. Having been written during the height of the the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, the composer has suggested that perhaps its moods are reflective of those times. The piece is taxing in the extreme for both instruments, not only in technical difficulty but in the expressive nuances specified. The work is in a single movement subdivided into distinct sections. A dark opening motif is heard and slowly developed in back and forth utterances between the piano and cello in a “secco” style, reaching a great climax; true to sonata form this section is repeated. A new idea follows with the cello imitating a middle-Eastern stringed instrument (the first of America’s wars in Afganistan was then underway, hence the influence). This is followed by a broad and lyrical melody for the cello, opening in a plaintive octave-drop, which is then developed, ending in a series of low, ghostly chords, evocative of the tolling of distant church bells. This is followed by a will ‘o the wisp scherzo, with very rapid figurations barely ever rising above pianissimo. After a grand climax, the plaintive tune returns, with the sonata fading into a lyrical, calm, dolcissimo C major ending.