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American Piano Sonatas Vol 2 - Griffes, Ives, Sessions / Lawson

Release Date: 07/23/2007 
Label:  Virgin Classics   Catalog #: 59316   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Charles Tomlinson GriffesCharles IvesRoger Sessions
Performer:  Peter Lawson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

I wrote enthusiastically about Peter Lawson's first volume of American piano sonatas (5/91) which contained Barber, Carter, Copland and the Three-page Sonata by Ives. It says much about the standing of the American piano sonata in the instrument's twentieth-century repertory that there are now so many fine recordings on offer. With this second record, too, Lawson has plenty of competition and, once again, he is well ahead. The Griffes Sonata is the composer's late masterpiece—see Charles T. Griffes: a Life in Music by Donna K. Anderson (Smithsonian Press: 1992) for new information about the psychosexual crises which dominated the mature years of this composer's short life. Landes on his Griffes/MacDowell CD made an impressive case for this Read more work and, like Lawson, has absolutely no technical problems. But I prefer the way Lawson controls the soft textures which appear like oases between outbursts of passion. And the passacaglia texture in the final section (track 5, 1'05'') is admirably paced.

There is strong competition in the First Sonata by Ives. I gave top billing to Joanna MacGregor on Collins Classics with ample justification. Lawson, too, is outstanding and there is little to choose between these two thoroughly satisfying interpretations of this splendid work. MacGregor possibly swings a little easier in the ragtime movements, but there are times when Lawson (track 14, 1'12'') has a firmer left hand. She adapts the big eruptions in the middle movement to make the hymn melody the same each time: Lawson leaves it to its eccentrically Ivesian inconsistencies, as written. I like the way MacGregor was not afraid to go over the top with some Ivesian splashing about: Lawson manages the same frenzy with greater control and gets the epic moments, such as the last movement, absolutely right. With both pianists their instruments sound slightly blatant and necessarily under attack in Ives's rough house.

Even in the Sessions Second Sonata there is tough competition—from Barry David Salwen on an all-Sessions CD. Salwen's devotion to the Sessions cause is apparent throughout his disc and, once again, there is not much to choose between two excellent performances with similar qualities of fidelity to the composer's intentions. That has always been Lawson's hallmark from his first Satie recording to the exceptionally demanding American works performed here. What a great achievement to record two CDs of major sonatas and come up with virtually the best available performance of every one! Whatever can we expect from Vol. 3?'

-- Peter Dickinson, Gramophone
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano, A 85 by Charles Tomlinson Griffes
Performer:  Peter Lawson (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 12/1917-01/1918; United States of Ame 
Sonata for Piano no 1 by Charles Ives
Performer:  Peter Lawson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901-1909; USA 
Sonata for Piano no 2 by Roger Sessions
Performer:  Peter Lawson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; USA 

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