STEPHEN DODGSON (1924-2013): Piano Sonatas Nos. 2, 4 and 5.
Catalogue Number: 07V048
Format: CD reissue
Description: Only a small proportion of this prolific composer’s output was for solo piano - this disc contains half the piano sonatas - but on the strength of these, he was as adept at writing for the instrument as for the many chamber ensembles for which he is better known. The pieces are as articulate, clear, and meticulously crafted as the rest of his output. The music is tonal, and written with a more than thorough understanding of the piano, though you will search in vain for thunderous, barnstorming heavy Romanticism or tumultuous modernity; Dodgson's character was one of finely turned English wit, humour, and profound thoughts expressed in clear, precise prose, not thundered from the pulpit, and his virtuosic requirements, while considerable, are of the scintillating, figurative type. The Second Sonata is in two sections, the first rather drily acerbic, the second a scherzo in Beethovenian boogie style (thinking of the Op.111, as Dodgson very likely was). The scherzo of the 4th Sonata plays the same game; Dodgson seems to have enjoyed this joke. The first movement is more of a fantasia in roulades of notes, which return in the tonally ambiguous finale, which unexpectedly resolves into a tonally clear, 'classical-romantic' coda; the second is a slightly batty waltz, but the slow movement has genuine depth and seriousness. The 5th Sonata was written for Bernard Roberts, a noted interpreter of the French repertoire as well as of Beethoven, so the Debussyan approach to non-functional tonal harmony in the first movement and the feux d’artifice of the second are certainly not accidental. The slow movement is a gentle but wayward andante, and the finale, marked 'steely bright' is metrically jittery and refuses to admit any harmonic resolution, remaining fantastical and eccentric to the end. Bernard Roberts (piano). Original 1994 release.