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.