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Solo Viola

Australian music for viola

The viola has traditionally inspired music that is elegiac in nature, and often miniature in form. The Australian repertory for the instrument is no exception in that there are lots of well-written short pieces and atmospheric miniatures to choose from.

In the last 20 years, however, composers have increasingly understood the instrument's potential and composed large-scale solo pieces, chamber music and concertos that make use of viola's whole expressive range. Brett Dean's viola concerto, premiered by the composer himself in 2006, was a powerful demonstration of this, as were the 1990s concertos by Andrew Ford (The Unquiet Grave, 1998) and Colin Brumby (the popular, lyrical Tre aspetti di Roma, 1990). A substantial, earlier work is Alfred Hill's concerto (1969), recorded and championed by Robert Pikler.

In addition to Brett Dean – who played the instrument with Berlin Philharmonic for a number of years – new Australian viola works have found their interpreters in fine contemporary players, from Patricia Pollett and Roger Benedict to Lawrence Jacks, Keith Crellin and Deborah Lander.


The list of representative works for viola has been prepared in cooperation with Patricia Pollett.

Representative works

  Work Notes
Sonata for viola and percussion (1960) by Peter SculthorpeThis classic of the repertory, representative of Sculthorpeā€™s early Australian idiom, evokes the sounds and colours of the outback.
Sonata for clarinet or viola and piano (1949) by Margaret SutherlandA lyrical, single-movement sonata, exploring a fine range of melodic and dramatic material well suited to the instrument.
Duo variations for viola and piano (1990) by Andrew SchultzA challenging duo with extended scope and variety. The viola and piano are equal partners in this substantial work.
Prelude and White cockatoo spirit dance (1994) by Ross EdwardsA two-movement solo viola work with dramatic and dance-like characteristics. Well written for the viola, the piece covers a large range and has lots of variety
Still life (2001) by Elena Kats-CherninSix short pieces that allow the viola to explore a range of moods, textures, intensities and drama.
Swansong (1987) by Andrew FordA striking work with extreme contrasts of character, Swansong has a virtuosic middle section with dramatic intensity.

More specific categories of Solo Viola

Broader categories of Solo Viola