Drawing on the lithe beauty and contrapuntal elegance of the earlier Piano Sonata (1946) by Elliott Carter, the Piano Sonata by Carl Vine is a work characterised by intense rhythmic drive and the building up of layers resonance. These layers are sometimes delicate and modal, achieving a ‘pointed’ polyphony by the use of complex cross-rhythms, at other times they are granite-like in density, creating waves of sound which propel the music irresistibly towards its climax.
The scheme is similar to the Carter Sonata - two movements, with the slow section built into and defining the faster proportions of the first movement. The second movement is based on a moto perpetuo which soon gives way to a chorale section based on parallel fifths.
In discussing the work, Vine is reticent about offering explanations for the compositional processes involved, feeling that these are self-evident and indeed the work is definitely aurally ‘accessible’ on first hearing. However one of the man concerns in this sonata is the inter-relationship between the disparate tempi, which is the undercurrent of the work and its principle binding element.
The work is dedicated to me and was commissioned by the Sydney Dance Company to be choreographed by Graeme Murphy. The first concert performance of this work was on June 23, 1991 in Melbourne. The first dance performance of Piano Sonata was in the Drama Theatre of the Sydney Opera House in May 1992.
© Michael Harvey 1991