Sonja Grossner - Blog

Sonja Grossner - CCA's Composer of the Month, JANUARY 2013

Sonja Grossner - CCA's Composer of the Month, JANUARY 2013

Sonja Grossner - CCA's Composer of the Month, JANUARY 2013

CCA's Composer of the Month, JANUARY 2013

The featured Composition(s) of the Month:

PIANO CONCERTO: Within Reflecting Echoes

The instrumental and/or vocal resources used:


First performance details:


Performers on your recording:

Piano soloist: DUNCAN HONEYBOURNE;  

What was the source/inspiration/commission, which set this piece or these pieces in motion?

This composition is a personal reflection of the past and of tales my mother told me.   Many of my compositions especially these last years are dedicated to my parents in loving memory. I have written a book about their life and experiences and this composition is a musical version of my book: The Troubles to Greet Beauty.

In this piano concerto I have told their tale in a musical way.

The piano concerto has been played many times on Radio Indonesia.


What would be a good programme note for this work, which explains the structure, use of melody and harmony and any technical points related to the performers?

In the FIRST MOVEMENT, I have expressed, particularly, the life of my parents. It is an exciting and dramatic movement.

The SECOND MOVEMENT reflects  happy tranquil times.  This movement also reflects happy times I spent  as a professional violinist working in an orchestra. 

The THIRD MOVEMENT reflects  good times and thoughts of past times.

This composition also reflects the feelings of restlessness and the longing to belong somewhere.

For material I have used parts of two of my piano sonatas and a piano trio: ‘ For Spring,’ ‘Remembering Dresden’ and ‘Sound, City Silence’.

It is hardly possible in today’s world to live on creative art, - composing music. You have to be addicted and as in my case, feel the urgent need to write and create, no matter whatever the outcome. This composition is a very personal one. I would also like to thank  Duncan Honeybourne for this wonderful opportunity to get my piano concerto performed.




When did you first start composing and what was your first piece?

As soon as I started to play the violin with 8 years in Maidenhead Berkshire UK. Learning the violin coincided with my wish to write music. My mother was my first violin teacher. My first pieces were for violin, which I wrote at the same time. My time as a student at the Carl Maria von Weber Hochschule für Musik in Dresden was a very inspiring and optimistic time: Sonatine for violin and piano; four inventions for B flat clarinet and bassoon; four pieces for violin and piano; four easy piano pieces and four pieces for violin and viola duets - all written in 1964.


Who was it that first encouraged you to develop your interest in composing and how did they help?

My first inspiration came from my mother. She played the violin to me at bedtime as a child inspiring me to also play and write my own music, always encouraging me to be creative in music as well as in art. Her story how she learnt the violin, how she learnt all by herself as a teenager, buying her violin from her first own earnings, not being allowed to take her instrument home, and having to hide her instrument because of a very bad stepmother, just like in the well known Cinderella story. How she learnt all by herself without any help or lessons. Her determination to be creative in spite of all difficulties was and still in an example for me, and my daughter. She often played gypsy music and many other interesting pieces and folk tunes that she knew from her childhood and from her mother who died when she was 13 years old. My gran was an amateur opera singer and although I never knew her personally I know her from the tales my mother told me. Only since my MA course with Gavin Bryars, has my composition work been taken seriously. Before that time it was my own initiative to continue. Many times before have I been subject to negative remarks and discouraging comments. I am, therefore, most thankful to Gavin Bryars for his encouragement and support as well as Birmingham Conservatoire.


Who do you consider your greatest inspirations in terms of the major composers and which of their works has influenced you the most and why?

This is a question I cannot answer. All major composers have an influence and inspiration for me; the list would be far too long; from Bach to Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Prokofiev, Hindemith, Schostakowitsch, Stravinski, Bartok, Alfred Schnittke, Sofia Gudaidulina, Arvo Part, Johannes Paul Thilman, Manfred Weiss, (these last two were my composition teachers in Dresden). Khachaturian, this composer visited the music school in Dresden and gave a talk which is still very much in my memory. It was inspiring. Paganini is another composer whose music I find inspiring. It is absolutely impossible to state of any kind who inspired my most. Gavin Bryars has also been a great inspiration to me, making me aware of the lack of recognition of women composers. For my MA course he made me study the works of male and female composers alike. This was a great insight to those works that are not so readily available and are just as wonderful as those that are well known. Gavin Bryars’ works: Titanic and Jesus Blood never failed me yet opened another way of writing for me. From the very chromatic 12-tone style as was custom in the previous GDR to the minimalist music of John Cage I learnt a lot. I must not forget women composers, Clara Schumann, Amy Beach, Nadia Boulanger, Rebecca Clarke, Germaine Tailleferre. It is an interesting fact that during my MA course with Gavin Bryars it was very easy to get hold of score and recordings of music by male composers but very difficult to get scores and recordings of music by female composers. I am sure I have forgotten to name some others, as my list is endless.


How would you describe your style to someone who has never heard your music before?

I cannot describe my style. I try to write so that anybody can understand my compositions. This means that I take that style nearest to what I am wanting to express in my music; influence from Gavin Bryars’ works; Jesus Blood for my Street life piece which is dedicated to homeless people, to 12 tone music, Hindemith for my Destiny piece that was performed in Olomouc by Vienna Modern Masters and my piano concerto: Within Reflecting Echoes. I want my work to be understood by all. Destiny was heard on the website: on 14th December when I was featured as composer of the day. Also extracts of my work can be heard on the link at the bottom of most pages on our website:


What do you feel is original in your music?

Perhaps the originality of my music is the many styles of music I have been lucky to have been able to study, and the great variety of different composition teachers I have had.

How do you work? What methods of creativity and work ethic do you have? Do you solely use musical technology or do paper and pencil still form a part of your process?

I like to work both ways, on and off the computer. You can’t beat the old way with just manuscript paper and pencil, but its good to hear what have I composed on the computer but not necessary as I hear what I want in my head.





Genre of Music?

Classical, folk music and others.


Pianists: Duncan Honeybourne & Davide Martello. I met Davide Martello in Dresden playing his grand piano outside in the square, Schlossplatz in the old part of the town. He wants to play in every capital of the world – with his grand piano. I have never seen anything like this ever before playing a piano in the snow for free, again a wonderful concert, free for everyone.


Don´t really have a favourite but I was impressed with this choir. Don Kosaken Chor from Russia. Again, I met this group in Dresden singing outside the Frauenkirche.

Chamber Ensemble?

Also don´t really have a favorite but I found these two groups very interesting. Brass Quintet Neva A- Brass Saint- Petersburg, Russia and ‘Stringfever’ String quartet: I heard them play in Leicester.


Any good orchestra. Staats Kapelle Dresden, Dresden Philharmonie.

Concert Venue?

Anywhere where good music is played.  Covent Garden, Dresden castle court yard where a medieval Christmas market was held and a stage errected among all other stalls, where music was played throughout the day for all to enjoy whilst enjoying seasonal food. Beautifully restored Dresden Semperoper .


Too many to mention. See the list of composers listed above under “my greatest inspirations”.