ALLEN SHAWN (b.1948): Piano Sonata No. 4, 5 Preludes, 3 Jazz Preludes, 3 Recollections, 3 Reveries, Valentine, Growl.
Catalogue Number: 12Q061
Label: Coviello Classics
Reference: COV 91414
Description: Shawn is a pianist-composer with a widely diversified style, consistently approachable and pianistic. Harmonically, his idiom encompasses a range between very tonal (Five Preludes, Jazz Preludes) and intensely chromatic (Recollections, Reveries, Growl, the latter full of sound and fury and approaching a kind of unthreatening atonality). This eclectic vocabulary, effortless pianistic skill and communicative accessibility recall Rzewski, and the adventurous, flexible harmonic thinking not infrequently bring to mind another major composer-pianist of our time, Ronald Stevenson. Even in the pieces that aren't explicitly jazz-derived, jazz harmonies have a tendency to make a guest appearance, while the Jazz Preludes are elegan t pieces of concert jazz, two slow and soulful, the second a lovely spiritual, and a lively ragtime finale. The concise three-movement sonata, its outer movements much more overtly tonal than the questing, nocturnal central slow movement, is a significant piece whose expressive range belies its comparative brevity. It is in the ambiguous, rather haunted slow music that one gets a glimpse of the composer's well documented difficult psychological life; the active, extrovert pieces radiate breezy, affirmative bonhomie; it is the perceptible tension between the two that gives the composer's output its striking emotional depth. Julia Bartha (piano).