Sonata for Viola and Double Bass

Robert Rival
Robert Rival
Composition Date: 2010
Duration: 00:14:00
Genre: Strings (bowed), Solo / Ensemble, Misc. String Duos (Mixed)


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Viola
  • 1 x Double bass
Click here to download full work (7.25 Mb - Not printable)

Programme Note:
This piece was borne of the Internet age. From the other side of the planet, the Elanée Ensemble of Australia stumbled upon my website, and after listening to some of my work, invited me to compose a sonata for viola and double bass. I initially viewed the prospect of writing for this unusual combination with a degree of skepticism. But after hearing the duo’s rendition of Glière's "Cradle Song", I was immediately won over by the dark, blended sonorities that projected a unique warmth tinged with melancholy. The contrapuntal clarity of their version of a Telemann canonic sonata sealed the deal: I became convinced that this little-explored pairing was capable of a wide range of expression, from the lyrical to the virtuosic.

And so I fashioned an extended work whose four contrasting movements exploit a considerable amount of the duo’s range, from brash to doleful to lyrical and, finally, to chipper. The disposition of the movements, with fast outer movements enclosing two slow ones, is, if not without precedent, certainly not the sonata norm. Nor is ending with a scherzo.

Yet to my ears there is a narrative logic to the unfolding. As an antidote to the furious—and often violent—opening movement, with its swirling, interlocking parts, comes a sparse lament that seems to reckon with the pain inflicted. Here the viola resonates in its sonorous, low register against the bass's ethereal harmonics. The wounds now healing, warmth emerges in the lush third movement: the bass rises up from its depths to cantabile heights against elaborate figuration in the viola. The stage is now set for a bit of humour in the last movement, a playful romp, enlivened by frequent alternation between pizzicato and arco, whose only recollection of the first movement's fury is in its mischievous tone. —R.R.

Commissioned by: Elanée Ensemble

Premiere Information:
Kilburn Institute
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Jo St Leon (viola)
Stuart Thompson (double bass)


  • Call Number:
  • MI 3126 R616so
  • Genre:
  • Strings (bowed), Solo / Ensemble, Misc. String Duos (Mixed)
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • January 16, 2013
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (30 p.) ;
    30 Pages
    Height: 28 cm
    Width: 22 cm
    Parts page count: 13
    2 parts (13 p.) ;
    Height: 28 cm
    Width: 22 cm
  • Additional Information:

Request a Repertoire Consultation
Suggest Modification for this Record

Available For:

  • Loan
  • Purchase
Available Products for this piece:

TitleDetailsPriceAdd this Product
Sonata for Viola and Double Bass by Robert Rival (Score)
Printed on demand
Sonata for Viola and Double Bass by Robert Rival (Score and Parts)
Printed on demand
Sonata for viola and double bass: Score
(downloadable PDF)
Sonata for viola and double bass: Score and Parts
Score and Parts
(downloadable PDF)
Sonata for Viola and Double Bass
Library Loan
Copies of this work are available for loan from: Toronto, Montréal, Calgary, Vancouver