Sonatina in Five Studies, Op. 1

solo piano
duration 14'
composed in 1962, revised in 1983

dedication: to Arthur Tomson (1936-81)

published by Novello/Wise Music



recorded by Steven Neugarten on Metier MSV CD92008
[tape of revised fp (14/4/93) at BMIC]

programme note:

The original version of my Sonatina in Five Studies was composed in 1962, while I was a student at the Royal College of Music in London. It was written for a friend and fellow-student, Arthur Thomson, and was intended to reflect some of the characteristic aspects of his playing. After his college years, he became a distinguished scholar of oriental languages, and never played in public again. Following his early death at the age of only forty-five, I resolved to re-cast the piece as a tribute to the memory of a friend whom I remember with great affection and respect.

The five studies are:

  1. Vernal, a fast-moving, dance-like piece featuring rhythmic ostinati and sudden changes of texture.
  2. Martial, a brief section for left-hand along, mixing march rhythms with those of other musical styles.
  3. Memorial: Chaconne, a sombre, meditative study; the music of the preceding movement twice tries to interrupt its way towards a defiant climax.
  4. Mercurial, a study in constant semiquaver motion, with complex interplay between different accentual systems. The central section is a development of elements from the first study.
  5. Recessional, the longest of the studies, makes use of a solemn cantus firmus in very long note values, echoed by bell-like tones played at a faster speed. The music returns to the mood of the work's opening, but life's dance falters, and the ostinati, broken by silences, become locked into static chords, from which no renewal of energy can take place.

Justin Connolly


"The studies share material in a way that at once makes the group of them inseparable and closer in form to a sonata than a suite. The first study is enlivened with rambunctious cross-rhythms ornamented like overlapping birdcalls. There follow a left-hand quasimarch, a memorial chaconne, a rapid and "Mercurial" study, and a final "Recessional" that replaces the one originally composed in 1962. The last study's long notes contrast with high and sharp Bell-like sounds, and forge a funereal close to the music. A wonderfully pianistic work."
Fanfare, July/August 1999

"This is a gripping piece, vividly visual and dramatic within its spare, angular style; Connolly is a composer of genuine importance who has been disgracefully neglected by the recording industry."
Michael Oliver, Gramophone January 1996

other comments:

Ian Lake 1962 performance listed as "Toccata in Five Studies", in The Musical Times Vol. 103, No. 1435 (Sep., 1962), pp. 661

Op. 1 originally 'Fragments from William Blake' for soprano and chamber ensemble (1963)