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David MAVES (born 1937)
The Piano Sonatas
Max Lifschitz (piano)
Recorded : Recital Hall of SUNY Stony Brook, January 1983 (Sonatas 1 and 2) and Recital Hall of the University at Albany, May 1995 (Sonatas 3 and 4)
NORTH/SOUTH RECORDINGS R 1008 [75:59]

 

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David Maves’ four piano sonatas span some twenty years of his composing career and thus provide for a good opportunity to assess his musical progress over the years.

The Piano Sonata No.1 (1973) has a somewhat unusual structure and consists in six short sections, of which the first five are best heard as studies in piano writing and piano sound. The final section Finale summarises and amplifies the various, rather disparate elements of the preceding sections. The piano writing here is somewhat more radical and ‘modern’ than in the later sonatas, but never extravagantly so.

The Piano Sonata No.2 (1978) is rather similar to the First in that it is also a multi-sectional piece of which the last section Sonata is some sort of summation of the preceding ones, much in the same way but on a somewhat larger scale than in the First Sonata. The major difference is that the Second Piano Sonata is in fact a theme and variations capped by a larger Finale, and the composer acknowledges Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations as a model. A fairly impressive piece of music, I must say, and a very taxing one, from the pianist’s point of view.

The composer admits that his Piano Sonata No.3 (1993) is a "simple, straightforward Neo-classical sonata". To some extent this is a fairly apt description of the piece, obviously on a smaller scale than the Second and in a comparatively more traditional idiom, thought I doubt that ‘Neo-classical’ is the right word to describe the music. On the whole, however, the Third Sonata is a quite accessible and enjoyable piece of music well worth having.

In total contrast again, the Piano Sonata No.4 (1994) is on a rather grand scale and is laid-out in four movements, thus roughly adhering to the traditional sonata pattern. The opening movement is full of vitality and grand, brilliant gestures, and must be rather tricky to play. The following Andante is a theme and variations, and is followed by a nervous Scherzo. The Fourth Piano Sonata ends in grand manner, "a gargantuan build-up for its entire length into a big ending". The Fourth Sonata is an expansive work in the mould of the big romantic sonata, though the music is somewhat more traditional though still clearly 20th Century, and quite demanding, calling for much strength and stamina on the performer’s part.

Maves’ piano sonatas are really fine, beautifully written and very contrasted works. In a way, a composer’s view on 20th Century piano writing in all its diversity while clearly avoiding the more ‘trendy’ gimmicks. Even if parts of the earlier sonatas are somewhat more ‘modern’ in sound, the music is very accessible, often rather demanding but always very rewarding.

Besides being the founder and conductor of the North/South Consonance ensemble, Max Lifschitz is also a brilliant pianist who has the full measure of Maves’ often intricate music. The present recording of the first two sonatas was originally released on OPUS ONE RECORDS and are cleanly transferred here, whereas the recordings of the Third and Fourth Sonatas were made in 1995 and were given a warm, natural piano sound. Well worth investigating.

Hubert Culot


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