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.