bassoon and piano
First Performance
FP: 8.8.2001, International Double Reed Society Conference, Morgantown, University of West Virginia, USA: Wendy Cooper

Score and part on special sale from the Hire Library (

Programme Notes
Sonatina for Pianoforte [1954] I. Slowly and calmly II. Very slowly : remote III. Briskly : hard and percussive Peter Sculthorpe acknowledges this as his “first important work”. It was composed in Launceston in July-August 1954 for an ABC competition that required pieces in the form of a ‘Sonatina’. Far from winning the competition, the ABC Music Editor of the day deemed it “unsuitable for broadcast performance”. Undeterred, Sculthorpe sent the score to Melbourne where the local branch of the International Society for Contemporary Music selected it as one of five Australian works for submission to its international jury. Sculthorpe’s Sonatina was chosen, the first Australian work to be performed at this international clearing-house for contemporary music. The first performance was given at the ISCM Festival in Baden-Baden on 19th June 1955. Within the week, the German pianist Maria Bergmann wrote to its 25-year-old composer that his seven-minute work, one that he had never heard performed, had been “a considerable success”. At the time of composing it, Sculthorpe was attempting to compile a book on Tasmanian Aboriginal music, an endeavour that has engaged him over the years. As an integral part of Sculthorpe’s compositional process, the Sonatina, like nearly every other work by this composer, has some kind of extra-musical idea or image, many overtly revealed, others deliberately concealed. In this instance, the impulse is revealed with the inscription on the first page of the published score: “For the journey of Yoonecara to the land of his forefathers, and the return to his tribe.” In the first movement of this story from Central Australia, Yoonecara journeys to the land of his forefathers, the place beyond the setting sun. Following his arrival, the second movement depicts his meeting Byama, the Great Spirit, and his two beautiful daughters. In the last movement, Yoonecara, his mission successful, returns to his tribe, to much rejoicing. Not only is this one of Sculthorpe’s first overt acknowledgements of the influence of Aboriginal culture on his music, but, taking his cues from the sparse, pared-down language of Aaron Copland’s Piano Sonata [1941], Sculthorpe also outlines the future direction of his musical idiom. The distinctive opening chord becomes his hallmark signature-sound over the ensuing decades and the repeated sections become the foundation stones of his musical architecture. Kelly Trench 25th July 2004 Please contact Kelly Trench for permission to use this.

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