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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Benjamin LEES (b.1924)
Piano Sonata No. 4 (1963) [25.38]
Mirrors - In Six Section (1992) [17.23]
Fantasy Variations (1984) [20.16]
Ian Hobson (piano)
rec. 1995, DDD
ALBANY TROY 227 [65.15]

Written over three decades these works are remarkably similar in stance and style.

The Fourth Sonata was commissioned by the Ford Foundation in 1963 for Gary Graffman. It was Lees' first sonata since the Sonata Breve of 1956. The three movements are shatteringly and sometimes thunderously Prokofiev-like with many spontaneous and unpredictable changes of direction and tenor. If you appreciate the wartime sonatas by Prokofiev then you will like these. Horowitz would have made real hay with this work.

Mirrors was written and still is being written for Ian Hobson. It was premiered when there were only four sections in 1992. Two further sections were ready in time for this recording and other sections are in hand. Considering that the work was written only a year after the inventively varied Horn Concerto (on New World with William Caballero, and Maazel conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony) it is of a piece with the Prokofiev-style Fourth Sonata. Thunder and manic sparks fly in most of the six sections. A more impressionistic style is struck in the fourth section and an angular legendary atmosphere is to be heard in the sixth episode. The Fantasy Variations comprise sixteen variations flanked by the Theme and a Coda. They were written for Emanuel Ax. Only in Variation XII is there a noticeable shift away from Lisztian frolics to a Baltic minimalism as in Schnittke or Pärt. Variation XV touches on the same star-filled skies as Sisask's Star-Cycle.

These Lisztian piano solos are eerie, threatening, virtuosic for certain and often coldly angular.

Rob Barnett


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