Igor Stravinsky

Sonata for piano

    Description by Robert Cummings

    Stravinsky began work on this Piano Sonata in the summer of 1924 and finished it on October 21, that year. This was not his first composition in the genre: there was a far less rewarding Piano Sonata in F sharp minor, from 1903-04. Stravinsky is not known for his piano compositions in the way his contemporaries Prokofiev and Bartók are. Nevertheless, his piano music is generally worthwhile, and this sonata is one of his better efforts.

    The composer had finished his Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments in April, 1924, and his interest in the instrument remained strong. As in that composition, Stravinsky divulges qualities in this sonata associated with earlier musical periods. For instance, one notices not only Baroque and Classical elements here, but even early-Romantic influences. Stravinsky himself acknowledged a debt to Beethoven in this work, a composer whose music he had previously disliked. After reexamining the piano sonatas of the German master, he declared him among the "greatest musical geniuses."

    Beethoven's influence is most noticeable in the second movement, marked Adagietto, where the melodic line flows, but gradually sprouts music with varying ornamentation. Previously the composer's way with melody had usually been more direct and simpler.

    The first and third movements are faster and share the same metronome marking. They are also related in their use of certain thematic material: the main theme from the first movement reappears in the coda of the finale. That theme in the opening movement is given interesting treatment by Stravinsky, as it seems at times to be at odds with the left-hand harmonies.

    The third movement may be closer to Baroque styles than the previous two. It is muscular and lively, and features a two-part invention where the main subject often supplies its own accompaniment. There is also another thematic relationship that unfolds here: the alternate theme in the finale is based on a motif from the Adagietto. In the end, this sonata is a strong composition, if not among the composer's best.

    Stravinsky himself premiered the work at Donaueschingen in July, 1925. He dedicated the work to Princess Edmond de Polignac.


    1. Quarter note = 112
    2. Adagietto
    3. Quarter note = 112

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2015 Sony Classical 88875026162
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon B002398272
    2014 Odradek ODRCD 311
    2014 Sony Classical G010003219297F
    2014 Steinway & Sons 30028
    2014 Sony Classical 888430147621
    2013 Challenge Classics CC 72599
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2011 Honens 201102
    2010 Documents / Membran 232598
    2008 Naxos 8570377
    2008 EMI Classics 351825
    2008 Ars Produktion 38444
    2007 Sony Classical Essential Classics 103112
    2007 Apex
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 000860602
    2006 Bridge 9205
    2006 Vista Vera 70
    2005 Real Sound (RS) 97
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 86073
    2004 Dal Segno 007
    2004 Phoenix USA 157
    2001 Sony Music Distribution 46297
    2000 Ivory Records 71005
    2000 Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 280
    2000 Naxos 553871
    1999 Signum UK 9900
    1997 Nimbus NI8813
    1997 Nimbus 5519
    1996 Cedille Records 27
    1996 Praga PR250 073
    1996 Rene Gailly 87079
    1995 Centaur Records 2188
    1995 Berlin Classics 0031222
    1994 Bridge 9051
    1992 New World Records 80344
    1992 Chandos 8962
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 67276
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 46290
    Col Legno 31900
    MDG 6421086
    Collins Records 13742
    Ades 20292
    Performance 8