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

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3
PERFORMER: Nicholas Unwin (piano)
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.


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.


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