Martin Perry

Bartók: Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs; Rósza: Sonate für Klavier; Carter: Piano Sonata

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Martin Perry's 2013 album on Bridge is a tribute to modernist piano music, as exemplified by the keyboard pieces of Béla Bartók, Miklós Rósza, and Elliott Carter. Lest any come to this album in trepidation, it must be stated up front that these works are neither off-putting nor easy-going, but they represent the true complexity and originality of their composers. Bartók's Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs is the most accessible selection, for its folk melodies are recognizable even in the most thorny harmonizations, and Bartók's sense of atmosphere and place give these pieces an exotic charm. Rózsa's Piano Sonata owes something of its character to Bartók, though its connection to Hungarian folk music is somewhat concealed under layers of Germanic counterpoint suggestive of Hindemith, and the moods are tempered by a rather cerebral approach overall. Carter's Piano Sonata is the blockbuster of the program, and this work from 1945-1946 is still daunting because of its muscularity and its density of material. Yet for all its demands, both physical and intellectual, this sonata invites repeated listening, and the more it is heard, the more coherent the gestures, dissonances, and rhythms sound, in many ways like a modern reassessment of Beethoven. Perry demonstrates a great capacity for challenging music, and his playing suggests that it can be a heroic struggle. Not all of this CD is likable or appealing, but Perry's seriousness of purpose and commitment show through, especially in the Carter, and even at its most combative, this album commands respect.

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