Sonata #1 (1967) “Dzwięki” (Sounds)
This 15 minute single-movement sonata was commissioned by Daryle Irvine and premiered by her in 1968.
The opening section of 32 bars contains the 3 ideas which constitute the piece. It makes use of the crescendo/-decrescendo element which is displayed in the first 45 seconds of the introduction. The second section is a typical scherzo. The third section makes use of pedal and sonoric effects. The last section is actually a condensed version of the first section, brought back to give the work a cyclic feeling.
The swirling motives are the result of learning to manipulate “tape material”. That is why the sub-title of the piece is “Dzwieki” (Sounds).
Sonata #2 (1983) “Sonata de Cameron”
Commissioned by Antonín Kubálek under a Canada Council grant.
This 5 (five) movement work is made up of a first movement in sonata form, followed by an Improvisation; Scherzo; Adagio; and Finale.
At this time I was experimenting with the sonata, which is to me the most complex and intellectual of forms.
Sonata #3 (1990) “Textures”
I’ve been fascinated by the one movement sonata. This is most apparent in the Lyric Series of compositions (solo instrument + orchestral accompaniment).
Sonata #3 was commissioned by Antonín Kubálek under a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Twenty- one minutes in length, with a slow (5 minutes) beginning which develops into arabesque lines alternating with the opening minor third interval. From there it becomes one long exploration of the opening mood and intervals. The ending is similar to the beginning of the piece, except it goes from double forte to triple piano.
Sonata #4 (1991)
Commissioned by Antonín Kubálek under a Canada Council grant.
The 6 movement sonata is composed of Fantasia I; Scherzo I; Fantasia II; Meditation; Scherzo II; Finale. It is in the “perennial“ sonata form with a few variations to it.
This is truly a bravura piece of piano playing.
- Walter Buczynski
Afterthoughts on the Buczynski Sonatas
It has been 17 years since my last public affair with this composer’s music - an enduring and rigorous relationship it was! Every artist would crave this kind of opportunity: to study, perform, and premiere masterful works.
Walter Buczynski’s compositions comprise a prolific contribution to piano literature. My experience with 20th century contemporary music is reasonably comprehensive. From this perspective, I can say with strong conviction that Buczynski’s music fulfills its promise, and is thoroughly satisfying both intellectually and emotionally.
This conviction leaves me with a puzzling question: why do my pianistic colleagues (especially the younger ones) still occupy themselves almost entirely with music written beyond a hundred years ago? Can satisfaction for performer and audience be found only in the often-played and familiar works?
If the requirement is audience-pleasing pianistic fireworks, then the Buczynski sonatas contain passages comparable to Balakirev’s Islamey. And moving beyond fireworks, the overall musical value of these works seems to me to merit a firm place in the piano repertoire.
As a performer, I found great satisfaction in the sonatas of Walter Buczynski, and this went beyond their intrinsic musical value. As an artist, I had the knowledge that his music was uncharted territory for my audience; and that my involvment with his music was poised to set the relationship between creator and interpreter.
Today, these sonatas are still largely uncharted territory. To my knowledge, only William Aide, Gregory Oh, and Buczynski himself have also performed Walter’s piano works. My puzzling question remains, reinforced by the audience response captured on these recordings.
Buczynski’s music is born of his time, and the audience intuitively understands this resonance. Just listen to the spontaneous response of the audience at the end of the 2nd and 4th sonatas! What is even more gratifying is that the more intellectual sonatas 1 & 3 receive equally enthusiastic response from - not surprisingly - the obviously younger audiences at Toronto’s Jane Mallett Theatre and the University of Toronto’s Walter Hall.
I believe that this reaction is because this music has everything art must offer to satisfy a new generation of interpreters and music lovers alike, whether their first love is classical, jazz, or (dare I say it?) hard rock. Indeed, we have in Buczynski one of the preeminent composers of our time. Enjoy!
- Antonín Kubálek
Walter Buczynski, composer and pianist, is one of Canada’s most esteemed musicians. Born in Toronto in 1933, he studied theory at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and with Godfrey Ridout, piano with Earl Moss and with the renowned Rosina Lhevinne in New York. He made his orchestral debut in 1955 with the Toronto Symphony under the baton of Henry Rzepus playing the Chopin f minor piano concerto. In 1960 he was the first Canadian ever to compete in the prestigious Chopin Competition in Warsaw. He continued his studies in composition with Darius Milhaud in Aspen, Colorado (winning the From Award in 1955), and in Paris 1960-62 with the legendary Nadia Boulanger.
From 1962 to 1969 Walter Buczynski taught piano and theory at the Royal Conservatory of Music. In 1969 he joined the University of Toronto Faculty of Music as Professor of Theory and Composition. His compositions have been performed from coast to coast and in Europe and the United States. He has been recorded and broadcast frequently on radio and television in Canada by many distinguished soloists, ensembles, and conductors.
His compositional catalogue contains works for solo piano including 7 sonatas, 6 string quartets, the Cameo Series (solo wind and string trio), 23 Lyrics for solo voice or instruments and orchestral ensemble, songs for all voices, choral works and a multitude of pieces for accordion, guitar, bassoon, tuba, harp, flugelhorn.
In 1977 he received the Queen Elizabeth medal for achievement and development of Canadian culture. In 1992 he received the Governor General’s 125th Commemorative medal. In 2008 the Polish Government bestowed on him the Gloria Artis medal for his musical achievement and body of work.Walter Buczynski was President of the Canadian League of Composers from 1974-75.After 30 years of teaching Professor Buczynski retired from the University, and is currently Professor Emeritus. He continues to compose and has resumed his concert career.
Cover reproduction: Eve's Apple (© Joseph Drapell 2009, 114 x 108 in.)
Used with the kind permission of the Museum of New New Painters, Toronto.