Known primarily for
his orchestral works, Tippett devotees
can now hear his piano works. Tippett
wrote four sonatas for piano, the last
one completed in 1984. This disc of
the first three shows an extremely wide
range of compositional styles. The first,
indulgently, perhaps almost apologetically,
referred to by the composer as a "young
man’s work, with all the exuberance
of discovery and creation that commonly
implies" feels like a work of youth.
It’s not a case of displaying the brashness
of Prokofiev’s earlier works; more that
it has the sound of someone still working
out ideas of what something should sound
like. Seven years after its completion,
Tippett substantially revised the sonata;
the revised version is presented here.
The second sonata of
1962 shows a completely different approach.
Not arranged in typical sonata form,
the piece uses six motifs, from sforzando
dissonances to birdsong and quietude.
It is not so much a typical sonata as
a sonic mosaic. It holds interest and
is the most widely-recorded of Tippett’s
The third, in three
movements, returns somewhat to the traditional
idea of a sonata in that it has themes
that are developed and recapitulated,
with themes of the first movement making
a curtain call in the last. The middle
movement is a theme and variations wherein
all the subsequent variations are transposed
until the final part of the movement
returns to the original key. It is in
this sonata, more so than the others,
where Tippett’s exploration of Beethovenian
sonorities — most consistently heard
in his orchestral pieces — is applied.
Maestro Raymond Leppard
has gone on record stating that Tippett’s
composition is "often sloppy".
It is likely Leppard would have little
to say regarding the first piano sonata,
which overall seems a work that is unsure
of itself. For those fans of Tippett
who are unfamiliar with his sonatas,
this disc fits in perfectly with Naxos’s
wonderful record of presenting rarely
heard works that are sensitively recorded
and ably played. Donohoe’s performances
have conviction and strength.
see also review
by Dominy Clements