Geoffrey Burleson

Vincent Persichetti: Complete Piano Sonatas

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Vincent Persichetti's reputation as a composer, theorist, and educator has seemingly grown in inverse proportion to the dwindling number of recordings of his music that have appeared since his death in 1987; this paradox suggests that his works are perhaps more respected than enjoyed, or at any rate, that they have somewhat fallen out of fashion. This is peculiar, since much of Persichetti's oeuvre is quite tonal, only mildly dissonant, melodious, and fully approachable, and should appeal to a wider audience, especially considering the change to more conservative tastes at the turn of the century. However, there are qualities in his music that may explain its unfair neglect. Its cerebral nature and strong neo-Classical orientation may partly be to blame, and the dry, academic quality that pervades even his most accessible music can make Persichetti seem too much like Paul Hindemith, another great composer whose works are similarly underappreciated. The 12 Piano Sonatas, composed between 1939 and 1982, form a consistent body of work typified by intellectual rigor and controlled explorations of forms and counterpoint, though there are many lovely and haunting lyrical passages in these works that give them delicacy and a certain poignancy -- still more characteristics that should endear them to new listeners. Add to this the sympathetic playing of Geoffrey Burleson, who has addressed the lack of recordings of the keyboard music of Arthur Berger and Brian Banks, and performs the same admirable service for Persichetti; indeed, six of the 12 Sonatas receive their world-premiere recordings here. Burleson exploits the pieces' dramatic possibilities through robust, even explosive, playing, though this boldness is balanced with transparency of tone, clarity of phrasing, and where necessary, lightness of touch. New World's reproduction is crisp and lucid, though there is sufficient resonance to lend the piano an attractive luster.

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