While several prominent American composers graced the repertoire with a piano sonata, most did so only once. In many cases, these piano sonatas were departures from what had come before them. This is certainly true of Aaron Copland's sole piano sonata, which sharply contrasts with his more popular style exemplified in works like Appalachian Spring and Billy the Kid. Barber's only piano sonata also differs from his more lush neo-Romantic writing heard in the string quartet, the symphonies, and the Violin Concerto; the piano sonata, by contrast, constantly flirts with atonality and serialism. These two sonatas, coupled with Carter's rhythmically groundbreaking sonata and Ives' joking Three-Page Sonata, complete a fantastic program on this EMI album. Originally recorded in 1989, this album has been released on both the EMI and Virgin Classics label. Reissues of this recording are easy to understand: pianist Peter Lawson's performances are magnificent. His deep, academic understanding of the scores results in performances that are completely accessible to listeners, guiding them through the rhythmic complexity of Carter, the rapidly shifting harmonies of Barber, and the jazz infusion of Copland. Far from being merely technical executions of the score, Lawson imbues equal parts of fine musicianship, appropriate amounts of sentimentality, and an overall musical sensibility that gives listeners brilliantly well-rounded performances. EMI's sound is clear and lucid while remaining sonorous.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Sonata for piano, Op. 26|