Matthew Schellhorn


IAN WILSON (b. 1964)
A Sonata of Solstices and Equinoxes (2017)
for piano | 22' | World Premiere
  • SummaryOpen or Close
    A Sonata of Solstices and Equinoxes represents a new collaboration between Northern Irish composer Ian Wilson and English pianist Matthew Schellhorn. It will be premiered in 2017.
  • Programme noteOpen or Close
    Northern Irish composer Ian Wilson ( and English pianist Matthew Schellhorn ( have worked closely together for the past ten years, with Wilson composing a number of significant works for Schellhorn, including the acclaimed monumental solo cycle Stations (2006–7, 75′) and the piano concerto Flags and Emblems (2012, 18′). Schellhorn has also premiered a number of Wilson’s other works, including most recently (January 2016) the piano concerto Mutazione (2003, 18′) with the Ulster Orchestra, which was later broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

    Wishing to continue this collaboration with a return to writing for solo piano for the first time in 7 years, Wilson has suggested writing a four-movement piano sonata (25 minutes total) for Schellhorn that will engage with themes of recurrence, time (both ‘passing’ and ‘distant’) and musical culture as found object. In exploring these themes, a number of different musical/cultural ethoses will be referenced, including elements of indigenous musics from North Africa, India and Ireland.

    The piano sonata could be seen as an anachronistic concept but Wilson is determined to find an inventive way to approach the expectations of form. The first movement (Newgrange) will indeed follow the sonata principle but will not rely on harmonic relations for its dark drama; the composer will instead use temporal and tessitural relationships to expand the traditional notions of conflict and resolution. The movement will be built – both rhythmically and contrapuntally – upon ornamentation found in Irish sean-nós singing, which the composer has researched extensively. The second movement (Vasanta) will engage with ideas of growth and rebirth using harmonic and rhythmic ideas inspired by Indian classical music, while the finale (Alcyone) will investigate the notion of Illumination, referencing North African monodic tropes. Wilson’s existing short solo Sonnenwende (2009, 5′) will become the third movement, or scherzo; this joyful and virtuosic little piece was inspired by the summer solstice and is itself in that sense the inspiration behind the present proposal to write a Sonata of Solstices and Equinoxes.

    Note: Newgrange is the ancient structure in Ireland which lights up on the winter solstice. Vasanta is the Sanskrit word for spring. Alcyone is the star which used to light up a shaft in Egypt’s Great Pyramid on the autumn equinox.

    © 2016 Ian Wilson
  • PerformancesOpen or Close
    20 January 2017 13:10
    Brunel University
    World Premiere

    21 January 2017 13:30
    The Queen's College, Oxford

    22 January 2017 14:30
    Girton College, Cambridge

    Belfast TBC
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