Piano Sonata (1981) Peter Maxwell Davies

I listened to this piece firstly when broadcast in 1981 as my memory serves, featuring dedicatee Stephen Pruslin from the Bath Festival, and immediately preordered the sheet music, (though frustratingly, Chester delayed publication until 1983). By then Stephen Pruslin’s premiere recording had also been made available, and although I had no chance of learning such a difficult work in time for my graduation recital, I studied the piece (particularly the first and second movements) right away.

By 1987 I had performed the full work twice and earlier previewed the first movement in concerts (1985). I still have a recording of my full performance at Manchester University for reference, and listening to this again nearly 30 years later, it spurred me to relearn the piece with the intention of recording the most persuasive and successful interpretation I can, and programming it alongside Beethoven and Ravel. My  project is intended as an artist’s contribution to a piece that deserves an evolving performance tradition, and I also hope the composer will feel that my full hearted endeavour conveys his own vision successfully.

This blog will follow my progress and thinking over several months, enabling me to focus on the work movement by movement as I record those studio takes, destined for a final production recording. It is a very thorough (and non economic!) method of working on a very difficult piece, but allows progress and ambition to be uncompromised by any deadlines.

The Piano Sonata of Peter Maxwell Davies is a necessarily complicated work, attempting the most profound expressions of musical argument, heard in ever present conflict.  In other words the many delights of texture, pianism and modal colour are placed among constant shadows of contradiction, darkness and anxiety. As with much of the composer’s most serious music, the sonata is set in a troubled world, brought closer to the listener by its evocation of naturalistic and powerful seascapes, fertile organic growth and decay.

Musical examples from the score are brief excerpts for research purposes only and copyright of Chester Music.

I value any feedback, and discussions about this piece.

BP 2016