The Melbourne Sonata is a major work for soprano saxophone & piano. It is dedicated to Irish saxophonist Gerard McChrystal and is a 12-minute composition in three movements, Go, Slow and Blow.

The effective performance of this piece lies in the ability of the duo to maintian considerable intensity throughout. The two parts are tightly integrated and at times the two instruments should be indistinguiable from one another. With few gaps in the saxophone part, circular breathing essential. The lines weave in and out of each other leaving neither instrument prominent. With the pedal depressed throughout the 2nd movement, some of the saxophone notes should cause the piano to resonate. It was not my intention to have the saxophone playing into the piano but rather a resonant 3rd voice in the distance. The final movement requires clarity of articulation and a hint of a Celtic feel.

As travel tends to motivate my composition, the writing of this piece took place over about 18 months from 2011 to 2012. The score was finalised just before its’ premiere at the World Saxophone Congress in St. Andrews, Scotland in July 2012 where I performed with Australian pianist Adam Pinto.

The existence of this piece was inspired by some people who are both colleagues and good friends. Irish saxophonist Gerard McChrystal has been a keen supporter of my music in the United Kingdom and his fine performances have inspired a generation of British saxophonists. I dedicate this piece to him both for his fine musicianship and his unrelenting mission to engage with his audiences.

I had been familiar with the music of Perry Goldstein for a number of years, thanks to some fine live performances I had the pleasure of hearing given by American saxophonist Kenneth Tse. After years of correspondence, I was fortunate to spend 10 days working closely with Perry in New York in 2011. During this time I wrote the 3rd movement of this piece with a hint of Celtic music flowing through the movement. My most memorable day was getting snowed in and being stuck in the house for 24 hours. It was also my most productive day! I premiered this movement shortly afterwards at the British Saxophone Congress in 2011 with Adam Pinto at the piano. I was very pleased to be able to show Gerard part of the piece I was composing for him. True to style, he, of course, wanted to play it right away.

The 2nd movment came from an improvisation I gave at the 2011 International Saxophone Symposium during a presentation by Selmer. As I was put on the spot and didn’t have any music prepared for the ocassion, I did what I usually do – I improvised. Fortunately, it stuck in my mind and I was keen to use the material to contrast the intensity of the outer movements.

The 1st movement finally came about on the way to the World Saxophone Congress in St. Andrews, Scotland in 2012 where I was due to give the complete premiere. I had left buying a ticket until the last minute and so I ended up with the worst connections you could imagine but after 5 days in transit inluding Perth, Beijing, Amsterdam and Edinburgh, I completed the piece. The upside of all this ‘wasted’ time was that I had the chance to work closely with pianist Adam Pinto who was travelling with me. With his guidance, I was able to make sure that the I ended up with the two instruments tightly integrated and pianistic piano part that flowed under the fingers.

Melbourne Sonata Performed by Gerard McChrystal

A fantastic recording of the 1st movement ‘Go’ from my composition ‘Melbourne Sonata’ for soprano saxophone and piano. Performed live by Irish saxophonist Gerard McChrystal and pianist and Casey Dierlam.

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