Tippett: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Tippett
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3
PERFORMER: Nicholas Unwin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9468
Tippett, on his own admission, has never been more than an indifferent pianist, and his technique in composing for the instrument has not been governed by a recognition of comfortably practical fingerwork. He has thought more in terms of arms and hands, their independence and their unity, and his four sonatas – of which the first three are on this disc – represent four different facets of his developing style.

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The First Sonata is, in Tippett’s words, ‘a young man’s work’, employing the Scottish folksong ‘Ca’ the yowes’ in its second movement and placing a tense scherzo third. The Second is a single movement fashioned from a series of eight motifs, all in different moods and tempi and divided by abrupt pauses (Tippett originally considered calling this work Mosaics). The Third Sonata, conceived as a comparative lightweight in the wake of the huge Third Symphony, actually became a challenging three-movement work and represented a change of direction in Tippett’s thinking.

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All the sonatas demand breathtaking virtuosity, and Nicholas Unwin, who enjoys a close association with Tippett and his music, possesses this in abundance – by turns mercurial, brittle, forceful, restrained, capable of barnstorming bravura and of the gentlest, most tender expression. Wadham Sutton