YORK HÖLLER (b.1944): Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-3, 5 Pieces, 14 Monogramme, Doppelspiel for Piano Four Hands, Diaphonie for 2 Pianos, Partita for 2 Pianos.
Catalogue Number: 10S096
Description: This set chronologically charts Höller's development as a piano composer. He destroyed his pre-1964 works, so the juvenilia that he describes moving from classical models via Hindemith to Bartók are missing, and he emerges as a fully-fledged dodecaphonist in the 1964 Five Pieces, which are unsurprisingly very Schönbergian. Two characteristics are especially noteworthy; as with Schoenberg, tonal referents are not entirely lacking, and unlike him, there is a real feeling for 19th century romantic bravura (a bonus track is the composer giving an electrifying performance of the final Toccata). Soon after, influenced by Darmstadt, he produced the serial Diaphony, which pays homage to Bartók in basic pitch material and pianistic virtuosity, though not in harmonic language. Then followed the First Sonata, in a freely atonal vocabulary, though structurally it is closely modeled on Beethoven's late sonatas in its opposition of ideas and turbulent argument. Atonality does not, of course, necessarily imply harshness; there is much very satisfying and beautiful harmony in play here. Eight years elapsed before the Second Sonata, which pays tribute to Liszt by exploring and extending the extreme tonal ambiguities of the late works, the sinister and demonic aspects of some Liszt, and also some explicit quotations of recognizable motifs. The 1995 Partita is based on formal archetypes and metrical structures and harmonies derived from a 23-note 'tonal structure'; the six movements are character pieces which share characteristics with Debussy, and the composer notably no longer eschews free-floating tonal relationships. The 14 brief Monograms are character pieces of widely varied structure and mood, some based on the note-monograms of their dedicatees. Harmonically rich and texturally diverse, they form a satisfying and approachable set, notwithstanding their largely free-atonal idiom. The Third Sonata of 2010-11 is the most recent work, a single span which clearly picks up where the Second left off, with playful virtuosity and lyrical expressiveness, tightly organized around chords derived from a 'tonal structure' which permits a rich sense of almost-functional harmony and a highly directional argument of increasing intensity. 2 CDs. Kristi Becker, Pi-Hsien Chen, Tamara Stefanovich, York Höller, Fabio Martino, Fabian Müller (piano).