Sonata for Viola and Piano
CD soon to be released by EM records
Sonata for Cello and Piano
March 23rd 2004
Birmingham Conservatoire Music Xtra Festival
Sonata for Double Bass and Piano
June 14th 2007
Christchurch Priory, Christchurch Festival
Sonata for Violin, Horn and Piano
February 5th 2008
Suk Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague
Sonata for Violin, Cello and Piano
Sepember 11th 2013
Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery
Image on the Music Xtra Festival Brochure 2004 at Birmingham Conservatoire where Andrew Downes' Sonata for Cello and Piano was premiered.
An account by his wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, first posted on June 22nd, 2018
Not long after composing his Horn Sonata, Andrew was asked by a viola player if he had written any works for viola and piano. Andrew was busy at the time with his commissions for the new millennium. I thought his fabulous Horn Sonata would also sound beautiful on viola, so with Andrew's blessing, I transcribed it. I loved the work so much, particularly now that it was playable on my viola, that I overdid working on it and caused myself a frozen shoulder!
In 2017 violinist and violist Rupert Marshall Luck with pianist Duncan Honeybourne recorded all of Andrew's music for violin solo, violin and piano and also this Sonata for Viola and Piano. Their CD, entitled The God Marduk, after the name of Andrew's work for violin and piano, was released in 2019 on the EM Records label. A special launch of the CD, organised and introduced by our daughter Paula, took place at Birmingham Conservatoire on 6th January 2019. Here is an extract from movement 1 of the Sonata for Viola and Piano:
Duncan Honeybourne has accompanied many, many instrumentalists. Having given a number of recitals with cellist, Sharon McKinley, he suggested Andrew might be interested in writing a cello work for them to include in their concerts. The Sonata for Cello and Piano is very powerful, full of dramatic contrasts. Sharon and Duncan first performed it on March 23rd 2004 in the Birmingham Conservatoire Music Xtra Festival. Andrew had founded this Festival for his School of Creative Studies at the Conservatoire in 1992 and organised a week of concerts every year thereafter.
The review of the premiere of the Sonata was very favourable:
'... contrast (fierceness/lyricism, delicacy/drama) was explored through often ritualistic instrumental exchanges, generating a succession of evolving episodes. Pianist, Duncan Honeybourne... and cellist Sharon McKinley’s... pensive and tender dialogue in the third movement and the cello’s simple and dignified theme in the second delivered real emotional warmth.' BIRMINGHAM POST
We also made a very enjoyable, but more difficult journey to Weymouth, to hear Duncan and Rosalie Curlett, an excellent young cellist, perform the Sonata in a recital in St Mary's Church in 2012. A more difficult trip, because Andrew was now in a wheelchair.
In May 2022, Graham Walker and David Trippett recorded the Sonata for Cello and Piano for CD in West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge. The recording engineer was Myles Eastwood.
Graham Walkers' message to Andrew:
Just to say how much fun we had recording your cello sonata! Not without its challenges, but some lovely lyrical writing too – a real joy!
With very best wishes
It was also Duncan Honeybourne who suggested Andrew write a Double Bass Sonata, this time for his recitals with David Daly, Principal Bass in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. David Daly wanted to play the Sonata with his double bass tuned a tone higher for a brighter sound. Andrew created a special piano part for this with the piano part in D major instead of C. Andrew doesn't use key signatures because his music changes key all the time. So in this version the pianist has to play all the extra sharps as well as the original added accidentals. Duncan, of course, had no problems with this!
We had a lovely trip to David Daly's house for their final rehearsal and then to Christchurch Priory for their stunning premiere on June 14th 2007, as part of the Christchurch Festival.
Duncan Honeybourne, Andrew Downes and David Daly, Christchurch Priory, 2007
We also heard them play the work in the Montpelier Hall United Reformed Church, Cheltenham, in August 2007.
On July 14th 2022, David Daly and Duncan Honeybourne recorded the Sonata for Double Bass and Piano for CD in the beautiful Hall of Sherbourne School. The recording engineer was Myles Eastwood.
This was David's email message to Andrew:
Thank you for the opportunity to spend time on recording your sonata. It’s always a bitter sweet challenge to do a recording like this as you know with the mic in front of you every flaw will be painfully exposed! But it’s this sort of challenge that we thrive on too and Myles was excellent in picking up every imperfection (I hope!) while remaining encouraging too, also very important.
So I hope I have done your sonata justice and that you will be pleased with the result. I did a post on fb and Instagram and copied it to the Double Bass world groups and it has garnered lots of interest so this hopefully will also allow it to be spread far and wide and hopefully performed in other places by other players too.
Thanks again for composing it for us, and I’ll look forward to hearing the finished recording.
All best wishes for now,
From Duncan Honeybourne:
... we did so enjoy doing the DB Sonata - gorgeous piece!
Much love D
In 2006 Ondrej Vrabec, Principal Hornist of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, asked Andrew for a new work for violin, horn and piano, for his newly formed Brahms Trio Prague.
Email exchange between Ondrej Vrabec and Andrew Downes:
Andrew's Sonata for Violin, Horn and Piano is another fantastic work. The Brahms Trio Prague, Monica Vrabcova (violin), Ondrej Vrabec (horn) and Daniel Wiesner (piano), recorded the work first as part of their CD entitled Brahms Trio Prague in 2007 and then sold copies of the CD at their premiere performance of Andrew's Sonata on 5th February 2008 in the Suk Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague.
Andrew and I went to this premiere and as always loved our time in Prague. Ondrej said we should buy a flat there, because we had made so many visits to this beautiful city for performances and recordings of Andrew's music!
Fanfare Magazine review of the CD:
Horn Call review of the CD:
We were in Prague again in October 2008, this time with Andrew's sister and her friend, to hear the Brahms Trio Prague play the Sonata in the beautiful Bertramka Mozart Museum. Ondrej and Daniel gave the Czech premiere of Andrew's Sonata for Horn and Piano in the same concert!
That visit to Prague turned out to be our last, sadly. Andrew broke his back in 2009 and, because of Andrew's other complications, due to his ankylosing spondylitis, we were afraid to take planes after that.
The Brahms Trio Prague went on to give subsequent performances at venues such as the Villa Bertramka Mozart Museum, Prague (September 2008), the Martinu Hall, Prague (February 2009) and the Town Theatre, Jablonec, Czech Republic (March 2009).
Several positive reviews about Andrew's piece and the recording by the Brahms Trio Prague appeared in music journals throughout the world:
' ... a recording that deserves an international gramophone award... The three-movement work is thematically very tightly conceived ... and has great emotional pull ... his sonata has a distinct creative poetry and is appealing to the listener without being ingratiating.' Lubos Stehlick HARMONIE MAGAZINE, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC (January 2008)
' This is modern tonal chamber music at its finest.' THE HORN CALL (journal of the International Horn Society, USA) (May 2008)
' ... everyone who listens to this recording will surely confirm that he (Downes) writes interesting music, which... alternates interestingly meditative sections with playful sections and is narrating something constantly and relaxedly, which gives a great space for the imagination of the interpreters.' HUDEBNI ROZHLEDY MUSIC MAGAZINE (Czech Republic) (May 2008)
' ... the music is crisp, transparent, well composed for the musicians, and moves between cantabile, tranquillo passages and contrasting rhythmical gymnastics.' WWW.MUNDOCLASICO.COM (Spain) (May 2008)
' ... of remarkable craftsmanship and interest. His language is replete with that indefinable term meaning ... And his writing for horn is truly splendid, challenging for the player, but at the same time gratifying for listener and performer. It starts off in a very meditative manner, always giving the instruments time to speak their piece before joining together in a rather passionate second movement. The finale brings a dancing jollity to it all, a suitably festive ending.' FANFARE MAGAZINE (USA) (July 2008)
See Review at Musicweb International (this link will open a new browser)
The Australian premiere was given by Bridget Graham, violin, Andrew Young, horn, and Lauren Simpkins, piano, at the Melba Hall, Melbourne, Australia, on May 29th 2009.
The Brahms Trio Prague with their new violinist, Xenia Dohnalova, gave the first Ukrainian performance of the work in the Philharmonic Hall, Lviv, Ukraine, in October 2011, and then in the Suk Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, in December 2013. We would have loved to go to these performances. (In those days Ukraine was peaceful and prosperous...)
Here is a snippet of the very end of the work in the 2013 performance:
The USA premiere was given by Paul Sonner, violin, Julie Schleif, horn, and Steve Larson, piano, at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Petoskey, Michigan, USA, on February 17th 2013.
Thanks to amazing modern technology, when the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, recorded 4 symphonies and 2 overtures by Andrew for CD, we were able to watch in comfort as the recordings were streamed into our home via computer.
This account concludes as it began, with a transcription by me of Andrew's music for horn... Our daughter, Anna, with cellist Joanne Jefferis and pianist Duncan Honeybourne, formed the Amabile Trio and wanted something from Andrew for their repertoire. So I arranged Andrew's Horn Trio for them, giving the horn part to the cellist. With Andrew's consent, I put some of the passages down an octave, so that the part wouldn't sound too high for the cello.
The Amabile Trio premiered the Sonata for Violin, Cello and Piano in the Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery on 11th Sepember 2013. As we got to the venue, Andrew started to feel unwell. Sadly, he felt the need to go back home. Our carer drove him back, while I stayed to represent him at the premiere.
Andrew was fortunately well enough to attend two amazing performances which the Amabile Trio gave in Worcester: at the Elgar School of Music in March 2014 and at Worcester Cathedral in February 2017.
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