Sonata for alto saxophone and piano (2002)
duration: 21’
GRT • 086

recording available
Barry Cockcroft (alto saxophone), Adam Pinto (piano)

Reed Music

YouTube (1st movement)

score available from
Reed Music

program note
This Sonata was composed in fulfillment of the 2001 Albert H Maggs Composition Award. It was written specifically for Barry Cockcroft and Adam Pinto to premiere at a concert featuring my saxophone music of the last decade (Greenbaum: Retrospective).

"This CD, devoted entirely to the music of Stuart Greenbaum is a treat for lovers of Australian classical music. There are two sonatas, for saxophone and for violin, solo pieces for violin, saxophone, and piano and two sets of songs. The effect is direct, warm and affectionate all at once. Cockcroft’s sound blends delicately with the piano in the Sonata, bringing out the popular music influences that lie throughout Greenbaum’s CD. The three contrasting movements demonstrate great virtuosity on the part of Cockcroft and his collaborator, Adam Pinto. It is a performance that will be of interest to any saxophonists wanting to perform this difficult but rewarding piece.

The opening movement is based around a constantly changing meter alternating groups of two and three quavers, developing into a very strong set of memorable themes, ending with an altissimo version of the theme that is ethereal and haunting. The second movement is dogged in its slow forward movement. The simple theme becoming gradually more ornate as the movement unfolds. The climax unfolds in a cascade of scales that brings the piece to its emotional high point. The third movement, marked
Mercurial, the title of the CD, is made of additive rhythms, as in the first movement, but faster. The judicious use of altissimo to bring the piece to an exciting finale is well negotiated by Cockcroft, who is surely one of Australia’s finest exponents of classical saxophone playing. I highly recommend this CD.”
James Nightingale, Australian Clarinet & Saxophone Vol 8-4, December 2005

“If there is a concert that one would describe as perfect, this one had to be in the mix. Internationally recognised Australian musicians Coady Green (piano) and Justin Keneally (saxophones) make a perfect duo, their choice of “complex and vibrant repertoire” by valued contemporary Australian composers in a perfect acoustic venue with supportive colour enhanced staging, and a perfect audience, which was engrossed, spellbound, held in silent attention for every minute of the performance, contributed to this perfect hour of music.

How salutary too for us was the presence of the acclaimed and prolific composer Professor Greenbaum to present his work. Stuart Greenbaum “hears music in time as a journey. Often this involves viewing our home planet earth from a distance.” Written in 2002, his three-movement Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano came from his love of the piano and the sax, with both instruments so wonderfully triumphant in their centrality to both classical and jazz genres. Today, Greenbaum is proud of his Sonata project – a full list of 23 Sonatas, this second Sonata being a special exploration of the widest pitch range, emotional expression, dynamics and technical demands for both instruments. This mature 20-minute work is firmly in the repertoire for young students, with its colourful, imaginative and inventive structures, complex rhythms and extended sax cadenzas.

In an unusual ending to the first movement, the solo alto sax climbed an ascending slow diminishing pathway to a great height as Greenbaum took us to look beyond Earth. The popular second movement begins unusually with contemporary, almost prayerful, thoughtful piano chords that introduce a sweetly lyrical sax phrase, akin to a developing jazz ballad, with subtle ornamentation, and a sophisticated bluesy style. The highly experienced musicianship of Duo Eclettico showed in their fine symbiotic partnership, their pristine accuracy and attention to perfectly tuned and detailed expression. An exploratory, vigorous and rhythmically free closure to this imaginative and sophisticated Sonata was greeted with lengthy applause and loud exclamations of praise.”

Julie McErlain, Classic Melbourne, July 2022