Sonata for Guitar (2013)
duration: 22’
GRT • 173

recording available
Return Journey
Ensemble Three plays Sonatas by Stuart Greenbaum
Lyrebird Productions, LB061116
ABC Classics, digital, 2018

YouTube (3rd movement)

score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
Sonata for Guitar is dedicated to my very good friend Ken Murray. A prodigiously talented guitarist, Ken freely elected to undertake a PhD in musicology; and after a decade–long quest to find time to attend to this specialised task, he has now been admitted to the degree, Doctor of Philosophy. By way of celebration, it seemed only fitting to make good on my equally–protracted promise to write Ken a major work (having written a number of smaller pieces for him over the past 20 years). This Sonata in 3 movements was subsequently written in 18 days during December 2013. The premiere performance was given by Ken Murray on 10 November 2014 at the Wyselaskie Auditorium in Melbourne.

“Both discs, oddly, have a recording by its dedicatee Ken Murray of Greenbaum’s Sonata for Guitar a three-movement work with the titles ‘resolute’, ‘mysterious’ and ‘elated’. And the reason why this work is a good place to start is to explain the Greenbaum Sonata Project. The composer writes that his aim is to “create a substantial recital work for all major orchestral instruments, contributing new repertoire for professional and emerging artists…”. When it comes to this sonata, all he tells us however is that it was written ‘by way of celebration” for his friend Ken Murray who had, after several years, achieved a PhD in musicology. The style is imbued with elements of jazz that is, those typical seventh, ninths and eleventh chords with two bar or four bar passages repeated before moving on and with repetitious accompanimental patterns in, as the composer admits, a sort of minimalist language. Apparently, the sonatas “completed to date seek to push the boundaries of form, notably including minimalist architecture and the fusion of classical, modern and pop languages”.
Gary Higginson, Music Web International, August 2018

“this is very listenable music and that laid-back approach of the composer leads to a feeling of relaxation.”
Michael Morton–Evans, Fine Music Magazine, September 2018

“Greenbaum’s Sonata for Guitar was dedicated in 2013 to Ken Murray, who premiered it in 2014. It echoes with a confidence that only a performer who truly understands the work can portray. The first movement hints ever-so-mildly at contemporary constructs of rock and jazz, with Murray never shying from the wildly varying articulations demanded of him (or expressed through his own initiative). The result is a piece of music at once bursting with character and calm.”
Stephanie Eslake, Limelight, September 2018

“The current disc, while including all of the players, never features the entire ensemble. It is, rather, devoted to works by the Australian composer Stuart Greenbaum, who has the eminently laudable goal of composing sonatas for all of the major instruments – including guitar. So it is only the guitar Sonata played by Ken Murray that is really Soundboard-relevant (though the other sonatas are quite delectable as well). It’s first movement meanders a bit from idea to idea, but they are all good ideas, so the journey is always enjoyable. Greenbaum’s music is tonal, sometimes getting in a groove in a jazzy way, and uses the guitar quite creatively. The second movement, “mysterious”, lives up to its name in a gentle sort of way, and the final “elated” again uses some musical grooves almost reminiscent of rock. Don’t worry – no head banging. A very pleasant disc, well recorded, and admirably documented.”
Al Kunze, Soundboard (Guitar Foundation of America) Vol.44 No.3, October 2018

“Greenbaum’s Sonata for Guitar, written in 2013 to celebrate Murray’s completion of a PhD degree, is a major work with three movements, about 22 minutes duration. The first movement, entitled “resolute”, opens with a delicate, beguiling motif and its soft echo which evokes a mood of expectation. It develops from there, with various sections sometimes gentle or lively, thoughtful or energetic, with fast fingerwork and chords, demonstrating to maximum effect the sonorities of the instrument and masterly skills of the performer; a recapitulation at the end recalls the enchanting opening passage. The second movement – “mysterious” – is beautiful writing that takes the listener on a lilting, lyrical wandering into the unknown. The final movement, entitled “elated”, employs a repeated figure and rolling sequences to create momentum. Traces of Greenbaum’s “pop” background throughout the Sonata add to its allure.”
Gwen Bennett, Music Trust E-Zine, January 2021