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Vincent Persichetti: Complete Piano Sonatas

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 1, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Vincent Persichetti's (1915 1987) twelve piano sonatas were written over a forty-three-year period. The first nine sonatas, written between 1939 and 1950, are strong, integral and varied works reflecting diverse approaches toward synthesizing a number of styles and idioms. In these pieces, the voices of Schoenberg, Hindemith, Copland, and Bartók and jazz are variously combined and distilled within Persichetti's own developing compositional language, with an increasing emergence of an original style that reaches a kind of initial culmination in the expansive Sonata No. 4. The last three sonatas were created over a much longer span of time than the first three, appearing in 1955, 1965, and 1982, respectively. Each of these last three sonatas represents dramatic culminations of Persichetti's musical universe. Throughout his output, Persichetti employs a very wide stylistic palette, embracing diatonic and modal tonalities, pandiatonicism, polytonality, and atonal languages, as well as other diverse musical approaches. Like all of his works, the piano sonatas are brilliantly crafted, with the opening material usually serving as a unifying element for the entire piece. There is a strong penchant for homophonic textures, a great rhythmic vitality in the fast movements, and often a sense of very affecting poignance in the slow movements. Persichetti also uses scintillating registral contrasts and juxtapositions brilliantly throughout all of his piano writing. This first-ever integral recording features six world-premieres in persuasively stylish performances.

Review

It has taken a long time for an outstanding set of Persichetti's 12 piano sonatas to make it to CD, but Geoffrey Burleson's performances certainly have been worth the wait. Although not terribly ambitious in size (all 12 works fit onto two CDs totaling approximately 150 minutes of music), their range is astonishing. In the first few pieces Persichetti works his way from a highly melodic form of 12-tone expressionism (No. 1, of 1939) through Hindemith's more tonal neo-classicism, culminating in the large Fourth Sonata of 1949, in which his mature style seems fully present and well-integrated. This doesn't mean that the early works aren't rewarding, or that the later ones all sound the same--far from it. Sonatas Nos. 7 and 8 are brief, punchy miniatures. No. 10 is the largest of the set, arguably Persichetti's most important keyboard work. No. 11 is a spiky, very harmonically advanced (read atonal) essay in several linked sections that still somehow manages to preserve a sense of melodic flow. This is in no small part thanks to Burleson's extremely well-recorded and sympathetic performances, which capture the music's fundamentally lyrical inspiration in even the densest thickets of notes (and this music is packed with incident). His excellent technique and firm rhythmic sense serve him particularly well in the big pieces (Nos. 1, 4, 10, and 11), though the simpler charms of Sonatas Nos. 2, 5, 7, and 8 find him equally at home. In sum, this is a highly noteworthy release of some tough, intelligent, finely wrought music--a major statement on all fronts. --David Hurwitz --classicstoday.com
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Product Details

  • Performer: Geoffrey Burleson
  • Composer: Vincent Persichetti
  • Audio CD (February 1, 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: New World Records
  • ASIN: B0012ITD3O
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,922 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Sir Butternut Longsword VINE VOICE on March 11, 2008
Format: Audio CD
About six years ago I found a copy of the score of the complete piano sonata's by Persichetti among a mountain of disorganized music in the basement of Morris Library at SIUC. I had never heard any of his music but was familiar with the name through musical education.
I checked out the score and over the next six months fell in love with these neglected, underappreciated, and literally forgotten modern masterpieces. If you enjoy the piano music of Prokofiev, Bartok, or even Stravinsky, with a hint of old-school(not fusion) jazz--these are musts. The faster movements are bursting with vitality and wit, while the slower movements send you on a harmonic journey that will never leave you unsatisfied. Persichetti is a composer you can rely on not to take you somewhere without a reason, nor will he take you there without leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to get you back. This is not blimp-bloop music, nor will it ever, I repeat ever!, sound like non-sense. But they dont sound like Beethoven either. I would say, again, they are closest to Prokofiev's sonata's in format, with a pinch of the stravinsky serenade thrown in for good measure.
After playing through the scores, I couldnt believe there wasnt a recording of these works out there. Numbers 1,2,5,6,7, and 8 are all world premiere recordings. I have kept an eye out for these ever since and received them, I believe, on the first day they were available and have, in only one day, gone through the entire album several times.
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Format: Audio CD
I was directed to Persichetti's Sonatas by Walter Simmons, the respected critic and specialist of 20th Century American "non avant-garde" composers. Mr Simmons made me the honor of commenting on my lukewarm review of Persichetti's Symphonies 3, 4 & 7 (Persichetti: Symphonies 3, 4 & 7), encouraging me not to consign Persichetti to the "second tier" of American composers before familiarizing myself with the Piano Sonatas, contending that "Persichetti was primarily a composer for keyboard instruments and for wind ensembles (...) where his greatness is most apparent". Such an invitation was more than a prompting, though it is intimidating to write a review knowing that it will be scrutinized by a luminary such as Mr Simmons. But, now, time to dive.

The gist of my discussion with Mr Simmons had to do with "originality" (e.g., according to Mr Simmons, whether the composer has invented some novel compositional technique) versus "personality" (independent of its technical innovations, do you hear something in the music that is strikingly the composer's own). In his piano writing Persichetti is certainly not strikingly innovative, whether in technique or in sonic universe, in the way that (to limit myself to American composers) Ives, Cowell, Cage, Crumb (or even Adams) have been. He is happy to remain within the limits of the time-hallowed fast-slow-fast architecture, his contrapuntal writing and demands at digital prowess are heir to centuries of keyboard writing since Bach. As in the symphonies, the craftsmanship is unquestionable. As for "unique personality", his music does constantly titillate the neurons of memory.
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Format: Audio CD
Absolutely a must for creative people...listening to this music is like hearing "images" of Paul Klee or Marc Chagall. Very abstract and thought provoking!
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By T on November 27, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I first heard this composer's works by a church pianist that was just playing to pass the time before the congregation arrived at the church. I was so enchanted by the rhythms and cadence that I asked the name of the composer and then immediately went in search of a CD with the music I had heard. It took me trips to 3 local stores before I found even one clerk that could find the name "Persichetti" and then it was out of stock and not available. Amazon came to the rescue and I was able to finally add this wonderful piece to my collection.
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Format: MP3 Music
Really good music, I enjoy listening to these sonatas whenever I happen to listen to them.
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