Daryl Runswick back to Concert Music
Sonata (Gracing)  [Home]
Nikos Veliotis

My conception for Sonata (Gracing) sprang from my great admiration for the wonderful improvising skills of its first performer and dedicatee, the cellist Nikos Veliotis, then still
a student in London. Nikos made a wonderful stab at a rather poor concept of mine – a score much too prescriptive and restricting which Nikos 'interpreted' very freely and with great flair. Despite his wonderful rendering, I no longer think Sonata (Gracing) is a good piece and have withdrawn it.

In July 2001 Nikos had just acquired his 'Bach bogen', a specially designed cello bow that allows all four strings to be played simultaneously. He used the new bow in the middle part of this recording.

In the baroque era in England to grace a melody meant to ornament it with trills, mordents, appogiaturas etc: hence the term 'grace note'. Under various names improvised gracing
was an integral part of music throughout Europe, and a controversial one: the church thought it decadent (as the title of Tartini's sonata The Devil's Trill jokingly asserts) but in secular instrumental music and opera gracing was widespread and extreme – and a big crowd-puller in a similar way that Eric Clapton's guitar improvising draws audiences today. This sonata harks back in its title to baroque practice but uses a contempor-ary style of gracing.












The pub next door to Trinity College of Music, London, ca. 2001
Reynaldo Young, Nikos Veliotis, Christopher Suckling, Katrin Allott
Photograph by Daryl Runswick

In Sonata (Gracing) there are seven sections, to which
we can give the names -3 -2 -1 A +1 +2 and +3. (The illustration opposite is of section -3.) The sections are
exposed in the form of a pyramid -

      -1 A +1    
    -2 -1 A +1 +2  
  -3 -2 -1 A +1 +2 +3

- resulting in repeats at (planned but, to the listener) unexpected times. Additionally, the player is instructed to grace the music more and more extremely each time a section returns.

The Improvisation Continuum

Recorded in concert at the Barbirolli Lecture Hall, Trinity College of Music, London, 9th July 2001.