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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66939
Recording details: November 1993
All Saints, Petersham, United Kingdom
Produced by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: March 1997
Total duration: 27 minutes 13 seconds

'Leslie Howard's mammoth trek through Liszt's complete piano compositions and transcriptions (also for Hyperion) marks him out as a pianist quite undaunted by the super-virtuosic, but he employs his virtuosity entirely for the tasteful interpretation of the music' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Much stirring music, some unexpected delicacies, and generally walloping performances' (The Observer)

'Powerful performances of great advocacy in exemplary sonics' (Classic CD)

'I am happy to have heard these beautifully recorded, fully convincing performances by a pianist with a rich sound and ample technique who believes in what he is doing. The warm, clear recorded sound and Howard's playing make this the Tchaikovsky piano disc to acquire' (Fanfare, USA)

'Un disque unique en son genre et absolument splendide' (Répertoire, France)

'Hay que referirse al extraordinario rigor y sensibilidad musical de Howard: precisión, equilibrio, brillantez, fraseo amplio y cálido, riqueza expresiva' (Scherzo, Spain)

Sonata in C sharp minor 'No 2', Op 80

Andante  [5'59]
Allegro vivo  [6'22]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Much of Tchaikovsky’s music that remained in manuscript at his death was subsequently seen through the press by the Russian composer and pedagogue Sergey Taneyev (who also completed a number of unfinished works, notably the remaining two movements of the hastily issued third piano concerto—the Andante and Finale—which was published as Tchaikovsky’s Op 79). This accounts for the apparently late opus number of the C sharp minor Piano Sonata which, nonetheless, antedates his Op 1. Whilst it would not do to make exaggerated claims for this work, it is certainly better than its critics frequently allow: the bold gestures at the opening of the first movement, a transition passage which is echoed in Eugene Onegin, a typically yearning second subject, and a codetta suggestive of Romeo and Juliet all command notice. (Four bars unaccountably missing from the recapitulation of the second subject are here easily restored by analogy.)

The strangely formed Andante consists of a brief lyrical theme interrupted by a little flourish, followed by a mazurka-like interlude, a variation which retains the mazurka rhythm for an accompaniment, a brief reprise of the mazurka, and a short florid coda on the main theme. Clearly, the basic tempo requires several modifications for the various sections to combine happily, and Tchaikovsky makes his intentions clear by his rhythmic layout of the themes where they are combined.

The Scherzo marks the first outing for material which later occupied the same position in the first symphony, and draws attention to the fundamentally orchestral quality of Tchaikovsky’s piano-writing. Sweet though the trio section is, it does not quite match the equivalent but newly composed passage in the later symphony. It returns for the coda, which moves without a break into a dramatic Adagio designed to introduce the finale.

The busy opening of the Allegro vivo is more rhetorical than melodic, and in its youthfully gauche self-importance calls to mind the equivalent movement of Chopin’s early Op 4 Sonata. The second theme has many a characteristic of the later Tchaikovsky despite its reckless asymmetry of phrase, but nothing quite prepares the listener for the sudden abandonment of the main key (now enharmonically shifted to D flat major) at the coda, which only just manages to scramble home in triumph.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1997

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