Robert DeGaetano

20th Century Piano Sonatas

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20th Century Piano Sonatas Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Visual imagery can be an important and enjoyable aspect of listening to music. This can be especially true when the performer describes what the imagery is that they are trying to depict with their playing, as pianist Robert DeGaetano does in the liner notes of the album of twentieth century piano sonatas. Beginning with the Prokofiev, DeGaetano's written description does not quite line up with his musical offering. Whereas he describes "fierce aggression" in the first movement and "tanks...unrelenting in their destruction" in the third, his playing is not adequately vigorous to bring those descriptors to musical fruition. Bronfman's recording of this work is more successful in showcasing the more brutal facets of the sonata. Likewise in the Barber sonata, where DeGaetano emphasizes the jazz aspects of the composition, his playing is a little too straight-laced to deliver a performance to rival the more improvisatory-sounding playing of John Browning. His own First Piano Sonata, however, is a different story. DeGaetano's playing becomes much more freed and spontaneous when performing his own works and the imagery that he describes in the liner notes becomes instantly realized through his playing. For this work alone, the album is worth checking out. For the other two sonatas, the reference recordings still remain elsewhere.

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