Programme Notes – Sonata for Violin and Piano (1996)


While this work is not a sonata in the conventional sense, my inspiration for writing it was based on elements of sonata form that I consider eternally fresh in so much of my favourite music. This includes development and metamorphosis of thematic material, establishment of tonal centres and the relationship between them, contrast between the dynamic and the lyrical, and above all, musical context – why things happen when they do.

Sonata for Violin and Piano is in one extended movement lasting about eighteen minutes. The opening Adagio is in ABA form with delicate, transparent textures based around the tonality of A flat framing a more passionate central episode centred around A major. The return of the opening material features the use of harmonics and quarter-tones in the violin part. The Presto that follows is wild and tumultuous although there are scherzo-like episodes, including a tango-fugato initiated by the pizzicato violin, and a hesitant waltz that eventually leads to the climax of the work where A major is more firmly established.

At the moment when the music seems to be rushing headlong towards a joyful conclusion, the bass of the piano cuts through with repeated tollings of A and A flat. Over this the violin heralds the final Adagio with a long melody, rising ever upwards and leading to a restatement of the very opening of the work. By now the tonality is less stable, and the piece ends in a new sombre, questioning mood.

This work is dedicated to my wife, Elizabeth.