Piano Sonata

The Piano Sonata occupies a special place in my composerly output, in that it is the final realisation of a project I’ve contemplated since the 1960s. It took shape entirely in my studio in Ballarat, Australia, and the writing occupied me for all of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. Peter de Jager commissioned the work, and I was delighted to be able to provide a vehicle for his astonishing pianistic talents. It was originally written to share a program with the Alkan Symphonie from Op. 39, Szymanowski’s Third Piano Sonata, and Barraqué’s Sonate pour piano, and to a degree the Sonata’s resulting character reflects its intended company; however, although the piece was first performed in an abbreviated form with these other works, it eventually outgrew this plan and become a concert in itself. Cast in a single arch, it lasts about 100 minutes, and consists of nine continuous, inter-related movements.

The score can be downloaded as a PDF here, and the Program Booklet for the 2016 Australian National Academy of Music performance here.

I am delighted to be able to announce that Peter de Jager’s 9 October 2016 performance of the Piano Sonata won the APRA AMCOS 2017 Arts Music Awards PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR category. While I can take no direct credit for his performance I can at least express my pleasure in having provided the vehicle for Peter’s extraordinary talent. In my opinion, his performance of the work at the ABC in July this year was even better than the one last year, and I strongly encourage fans of superb pianism to listen to it when you have a couple of hours free. The ABC version of the piece is also slightly more complete, and the performance is preceded by a 45 minute discussion of the work between the ABC’s Stephen Adams, Peter de Jager, and myself.

Alternatively, Peter’s ABC performance can now be appreciated through the Scorefollower Youtube channel, without the conversation, and synced with the score.


Whiteout: “a blizzard of unremembering”

[Gregory Bear, Blood Music, p 255]



three windows: “refuges in infinite winter”

[Philip K Dick, Conversion of King Edwin of Northumbria,
as paraphrased in The Penultimate Truth, p 59]

…interrupted by



heat sink: “all warmth is local”

[Stephen Baxter, Vacuum Diagrams, p 4]

Intermezzo I—3


Photino birds: “avian dark matter”

[Stephen Baxter, Vacuum Diagrams, p 334]

Scherzo I & trio—7


gallery of spaces: “in the musical multiverse”

[John Barrow describing Luigi Bianchi’s Classification of three-dimensional spaces which admit a continuous group of motions in The Book of Universes, p 161]



Lévy flights: “random leaps in a musical configuration space”

[Albert-László Barabási, Bursts, p 157]

Scherzo II—8


EM fugue [ABC]: “what emerges when EMs sing”

[Gregory Benford, Across the Sea of Suns, pp 133-144]



k = +1: “Kristian Ireland collapses spacetime”

[John A. Peacock, Cosmological Physics: the Isotropic Universe 3.2: ‘…The Friedmann equation shows that a universe that is spatially closed (with k=+1) has negative total “energy”: the expansion will eventually be halted by gravity, and the universe will recollapse’.]

Intermezzo II—5


infallscape: “GM Hopkins culminates cosmic contraction”

[Collins Online Dictionary: Infall: the falling of matter to a celestial body from space under the influence of the body’s gravity; Gerard Manley Hopkins: Inscape: the essential inner nature of a person, an object, etc.]

Scherzo III—4


Tombeau/Ω Point: “voodoo remembrance as end-of-time resurrection”—Memento Robert Schuck†.

[Frank Tipler (after Teilhard de Chardin), The Physics of Immortality, pp xiv, 1]


Definitive version

Program (expanded) from the World Premiere of the Definitive Version, 30 July 2017

Recording of the World Premiere by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, performed by Peter de Jager.


Recording of the pre-premiere performance by Peter de Jager, Australian National Academy of Music, South Melbourne, Australia, 9 October 2016:

Recording of performance of a preliminary version of the work by Peter de Jager, Australian National Academy of Music , South Melbourne, Australia, 6 August 2015.

Note that all rights in this music, and the graphic representation thereof, are reserved by the composer and, where appropriate, engraver. Anyone wishing to perform the work should contact the composer.

Not all of the score is in a final form; although the musical text is definitive, the process of engravure is continuing. The engraver is Andrew Bernard, and his work now comprises approximately half of the score.

In Memoriam Robert Schuck