Sonata for Piano, 4–Hands (2013)
duration: 20’
GRT • 163

recording available
Viney Grinberg Piano Duo
ABC Classics, ABC 481 4591, 2016

YouTube (1st movement)

score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
I. Solar
The Expanding Universe

This Sonata for Piano, 4 Hands presents three different solutions to the challenges of 16 fingers and 4 thumbs playing at the one keyboard. Running in parallel to this logistic puzzle is a contemplation of the Sun and Earth in the context of an expanding universe.

Life on Earth is supported by the unique nature of our Sun (a yellow dwarf) and our distance from it. Recent observations of climate change underline the tenuous nature of this existence. It is anticipated that our sun will become a red giant in another 5 billion years and Earth would either be swallowed by the sun, or its water boiled away along with the atmosphere.

The Expanding Universe is a theoretical premise connected to the cosmological model known as the Big Bang – a continuous expansion, cooling and thinning out of the matter that constitutes the universe.

Earthrise is the name given to a photograph of the Earth taken by astronaut William Anders in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission. It shows just over half of the Earth above the horizon of the moon – a reversal of what we would normally see of the Moon above our own horizon. This captivating image – described as the “most influential environmental photo ever taken” – evokes a sense of the beauty (but also fragility) of our home planet.

The Sonata was commissioned by, and written for Liam Viney and Anna Grinberg.

“The latest, and in many respects most satisfying to date, is a new recording by the Brisbane-based Viney-Grinberg Piano Duo, playing works for piano (four hands) by five Australian composers. Stuart Greenbaum’s three-movement sonata is a 20-minute gem, with some attractive ideas that spin out freely, naturally and persuasively.”
Vincent Plush, The Australian, December 2016

“Stuart Greenbaum’s Sonata for Piano, 4–Hands takes inspiration from the cosmos, building a language inspired by the relationship between Sun and Earth – at times powerful and domineering, at others contemplative and spacious.”
Andrew Aronowicz, Limelight, January 2017

“Stuart Greenbaum’s Sonata for Piano Four-Hands (2013) was commissioned by the Viney-Grinberg Duo and written for them. The composer’s contemplations of the cosmos that inspired the work, described briefly in the liner notes, set the scene for this dazzling new piece. The first movement “Solar” features sonorous chords and constant movement, with repetitive figures in a sparkling interplay of upward and downward motion, soft and loud, creating a feeling of the cyclical nature of our world. The second movement “Expanding Universe” opens with pianissimo figures which develop slowly, fully exploiting the resonant qualities of the piano to induce a fascinating, mesmeric effect. The music shimmers around a sedate three-note theme; sounds become fewer and silences more frequent as we enter the ethereal world of outer space. “Earthrise”, the sprightly third movement, introduces a contrasting mood of fun with unusual, jumpy, syncopated, staccato chords and effervescent accompanying figures which build with growing intensity to a lively conclusion. The Duo approached this imaginative new piece with insight and verve; it will almost certainly become one of their favourites for future performances.”
Gwen Bennett, Loud Mouth, Music Trust E–Zine, February 2017

“Stuart Greenbaum's Sonata speaks in a pulsating liquid flow with a measure of repetition of note-cells.”
Rob Barnett, Music Web International, September 2017

“But it was with the program’s final selection, Australian composer Stuart Greenbaum’s “Sonata for Piano, Four Hands,” that the overall message of “equality” was reached. Greenbaum’s works for vocal choruses (the more familiar to North American audiences) were indicated in all three movements of this particular work, where each voice projected a quality of sound rarely indicated in modern piano compositions. 

In the movement titled “Solar,” one could feel the energic drive of the sun’s power throughout and the movement “The Expanding Universe” equated a Gustav Holst-like trans-Neptunian serenity with more modernistic piano techniques. And the work’s final movement, “Earthrise,” gave additional meaning to the famous photograph taken from the moon’s surface of the Earth in the vastness of space, evoking equality through unity of peaceful purpose.”

Halie Wilson, Idyllwild Town Crier, February 2020