Program notes

Sonata for piano – Night Visions, opus 13 (1982)

  1. 1. Sussurando
  2. 2. Furiant

Sonata for Piano was composed between April and June 1982 in response to a commission from the Brisbane-based American pianist Eugene Gienger and with the assistance of a Composer Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts.  Initially, because of health issues, the planned performance of the work had to be indefinitely postponed and the piece remained unperformed until Gienger premiered it in 1989.

The most striking feature of the work is in its contrast between the two movements, which are nonetheless played without pause.  A number of works since then have carried through this idea of two distinctive movements giving the work its total shape.

The first movement is rhapsodic and freely developmental whilst the second is brief, aggressive and structurally more rigid.  Where the first movement seems constantly to be in a state of unresolved change and fluid motion the second is more deliberate and uncompromising.  This dichotomy is stressed in other ways: the range of the piano used in the first movement is high and in the second low, the predominant volume is different, and rhythmic articulation is soft then hard.

The technical ability required to play the piece is itself a reflection of the prodigious skills of the commissioner, Eugene Gienger.  He captured the spirit and mood of the work in his recording of the work when he introduced an overall programmatic title, Night Visions, and subtitles for sections of the work Dreams, Insects, Fireworks, and Chase.

Preoccupations at the time of composition were with creating intertwining and evolving colours and textures cast within a motivic and intensely virtuosic and quite passionate idiom.  The divisions of tonality, atonality and non-tonality seemed irrelevant in the process of this work’s composition; instead, piano sonority and brilliance are the compositional rule of thumb.

A new and revised edition was prepared in 2015.

© Andrew Schultz, 1982/2015.