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Track(s) taken from CDA67461/2

Piano Sonata No 2

1962; originally to be entitled Mosaics

Steven Osborne (piano)
Recording details: July 2006
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: November 2007
Total duration: 13 minutes 1 seconds

Cover artwork: Symphony (1915) by Michail Ivanovich Menkov (1885-1926)
Art Museum, Samara, Russia / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'Osborne's outstanding recording of the Piano Concerto … it's a lyrical piece with magical moments' (The Mail on Sunday)

'The mighty Concerto, starkly and confidently poised between Tippett's still richly potent earlier style and the brave new possibilities explored in its visionary central movement … the eloquence and fantasy of what is undoubtedly one of the major works of the 1950s is superbly projected in a performance which need fear no comparison with the best earlier recordings … as for the sonatas, Steven Osborne is at least the equal of Paul Crossley in interpretative empathy, and has the advantage of superlative modern recording. There's a further advantage: perceptive and lucid booklet-notes by Ian Kemp, Tippett's friend and biographer' (Gramophone)

'This splendid double album … performances that impressively set new standards in these often challenging works … Steven Osborne seems to have the measure of them all. His account of the Concerto, ably supported by Martyn Brabbins's command of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, has all the ecstatic power that Ogdon brought to the first movement, and a like rhythmic ebullience in the finale, but negotiates the contrapuntal thickets of the slow movement with greater delicacy and feeling. He's helped by Hyperion's detailed recording … the Fourth is by far the longest of the sonatas and has previously been the hardest to assimilate. Even so, Osborne's wonderfully elegant unwinding of the contrapuntal lines in the first movement, and his powerful, deeply elegiac reading of the finale, illuminate this fascinating work … more clearly than any version I've previously encountered. This is a very important release' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Released just in time to mark the 10th anniversary of Michael Tippett's death comes this magnificent set of the composer's complete music for piano played by the musician who must surely be regarded as one of his most resourceful interpreters, Steven Osborne. He has just the range of touch to bring out the tonal richness of the Piano Concerto (superbly partnered by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins), the muscularity of the Beethovenian elements in the First Piano Sonata and the almost Messiaenic sense of fantasy required for the Fourth' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Steven Osborne is a young pianist who seems completely at home in this wide-ranging and challenging music … the best case for the music I’ve ever heard' (American Record Guide)

'Osborne's readings on this new recording from Hyperion undoubtedly triumph … Osborne wins through on grounds of spontaneity and bitterness … Hyperion's new release, delightfully crisp and immediate, brings together all of Tippett's piano music under one roof, a feat not hitherto attempted. It succeeds in honouring the music's volatility while salvaging from it the composer's temperate if idiosyncratic sense of Song. Osborne's reflections complement full and illuminating booklet notes by Ian Kemp, who first brought Tippett's piano music to the pianist's attention while studying at Manchester University. This is a set that certainly deserves our warmest embrace' (International Record Review)

'Steven Osborne's accounts of the four Tippett sonatas in recitals at the Wigmore Hall were one of the highlights of the Tippett centenary celebrations in 2005, and his recordings of them, together with equally exceptional accounts of the Piano Concerto and the early Fantasia on a theme of Handel have been well worth waiting for … Osborne is superb at delineating the characters of the four sonatas and underlining how, in their very different ways, they relate to the piano tradition … under his fingers the Second Sonata emerges as a gritty and uncompromising masterpiece … his account of the Piano Concerto with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony is similarly charged' (The Guardian)

'The Scottish pianist demonstrates the driving energy behind Tippett's solo piano music. The four sonatas dance nimbly over the keys … nothing beats the hungry Vivace of the Piano Concerto, however, for sheer palpitating excitement' (The Times)

'This double album is a monumental achievement. Tippett's writing for piano is as demanding as it is cliché-resistant. No body of music for the instrument since Messiaen's is as distinctive as his and it is wonderful to have the oeuvre together on disc. The concerto is realised with a precision and vigour, both soloistic and orchestral, that leave one marvelling anew at its inventiveness. The account of the brief, early, concerted Fantasia on a theme of Handel makes me revise my opinion of the work sharply upwards. In Osborne's account of the four sonatas, each a big statement, radiance and virtuosity go hand in hand' (The Sunday Times)

'This double-disc set from Hyperion is a monumental justifcation for his efforts. In all four sonatas, Osborne reveals a sense of composure that reflects his total absorption in the music … the most exciting revelations are his illuminating accounts of the Third and Fourth Sonatas. Osborne hits the button on all levels. In terms of stature, he pours out Tippett's edifices with radiant vision. But within all that there is a galaxy of detail that hits you with intoxicating freshness and dynamism … these are award-winning performances' (The Scotsman)

'I applaud Steven Osborne for his dedication to Tippett's music. He has worked long and hard on it and found his own way; furthermore, he had the opportunity to include the sonatas in recitals before recording them … Steven Osborne brings deep commitment to the music, making it alive, vivid, and communicative through musical and technical virtues of the highest order … he really is inside Tippett's continually fascinating output' (Fanfare, USA)

'Osborne is at the top of his game in his unmistakable mix of liberated pianism and steel-tempered discipline … his playing, never better, is stamped with an immaculate sense of organisation and structure, married to a freewheeling joy at grappling with music he is committed to' (The Herald)

'I cannot imagine a finer recording of the emotionally restrained and stucturally tight Tippett Piano Concerto than from Steven Osborne … any older recording of this very important British piano concerto is safely ousted from the market. Osborne also does justice to Tippett's sontatas here' (Pianist)

'The English composer Michael Tippett left an idiosyncratic body of work shaped by keen intelligence and humanitarian spirit. But given the unorthodox demands and occasional technical shortcomings of his writing, his music has been best served by performers who approach it with sympathy and absolute commitment. The latest to do so is the Scottish pianist Steven Osborne, whose new collection of Tippett’s piano music is a revelatory achievement. The four sonatas span Tippett’s career, providing a concentrated overview of his restless style. The First, completed in 1938 and revised in 1942, responds to Europe’s darkening political climate with virtuoso fireworks and boisterous folk melodies. The Second Sonata, from 1962, shares the brittle, jagged sound Tippett fashioned for his second opera, King Priam, yet passages of gracious lyricism pop up throughout the single-movement span. Tippett’s musical language had become still more abrasive by the time he wrote the Third Sonata in 1973, but the icy stillness of the Lento movement and the explosive vitality of the finale speak clearly and directly. The Fourth, finished in 1984, is stuffed with enough material for a dozen pieces, including a quirky fugue, a gamboling fourth movement and a ghostly finale. Somehow Mr. Osborne makes it all stick. The Piano Concerto, from 1955, occupies the ravishing sound world Tippett created in his first opera, The Midsummer Marriage. The concerto is awkward but endearing, and Mr. Osborne is a compelling soloist. The conductor, Martyn Brabbins, draws a lively performance from the BBC Scottish players here and in the ostentatious Fantasia on a theme of Handel' (The New York Times)
Tippett composed his second piano sonata in 1962, shortly after he had completed his second opera, King Priam, which marked a dramatic change in the substance and style of his music. The opera is concerned with the impact of war and malevolent fate on a sharply differentiated set of characters—quite the opposite of The Midsummer Marriage. Accordingly a composer who had spent most of his career writing music that flowed naturally from one thing to the next now wrote music of abrupt contrasts, often astringent harmonies and for idiosyncratic ensembles. Of course Tippett didn’t have to write like that. He did so, one may deduce, because he felt that he had exhausted the resources of his earlier style and that the idealistic spirit of the 1960s needed to be tempered with scepticism.

The influence of King Priam on his output was far-reaching. As far as the second piano sonata is concerned it extended to the direct quotation of motives from the opera and, more fundamentally, to the way the music behaves. Although the sonata includes passages of great beauty, in general it is arresting and uncompromising. There are spectacular glissando effects and it would have included the direction ‘strike wood of the piano with the fist’ (at three places, to imitate a bass drum) if Tippett hadn’t decided this was incongruous. It is highly sectional, short gestures being juxtaposed with other short gestures in a sequence of statements that makes it easy to understand why he originally planned to call the work ‘Mosaics’. He abandoned the idea when he realized that in essence his material was shaped to form a single-movement sonata, with passages in double and triple octaves between the sections: thus, a ‘first movement’ with dynamic and lyrical material, a ‘slow movement’ in which the motives eventually reach a state of inertia, a ‘development’ with interpolated ‘scherzo’, and a ‘slow finale’ with interpolated recapitulation of fragments from the whole sonata. There is a short coda returning to the beginning yet leaving the work hanging in mid-air, as if to say that positive conclusions are no longer possible.

from notes by Ian Kemp © 2007

Tippett composa cette sonate en 1962, peu après avoir fini King Priam, qui marqua un changement spectaculaire dans la matière et dans le style de sa musique. Cet opéra, son deuxième, s’intéresse à l’impact de la guerre et à la malveillance du destin à travers une galerie de portraits bien différenciés—tout l’opposé de The Midsummer Marriage. Voilà comment un compositeur ayant passé l’essentiel de sa carrière à écrire une musique naturellement fluide se mit à en écrire une toute en contrastes abrupts et en harmonies souvent acerbes, destinée à des ensembles bien particuliers. Tippett n’étant, bien sûr, pas obligé d’écrire de la sorte, on peut supposer qu’il le fit après avoir ressenti l’épuisement des ressources de son style premier et le besoin de tempérer par un certain septicisme l’esprit idéaliste des années 1960. King Priam influença considérablement sa production. La deuxième sonate pour piano alla ainsi jusqu’à lui emprunter des motifs tels quels. Bien plus, cet opéra influa sur la manière dont la musique se comporte. La sonate a beau inclure des passages splendides, elle est, dans l’ensemble, saisissante et inflexible. Elle renferme de spectaculaires effets de glissando et aurait inclus l’indication «frapper le bois du piano avec le poing» (à trois endroits, pour imiter une grosse caisse) si Tippett ne l’avait jugée incongrue. Elle est fortement sectionnée, avec des juxtapositions de gestes brefs formant une séquence d’énonciations qui explique aisément pourquoi Tippett projeta d’appeler son œuvre «Mosaics»—il y renonça après avoir réalisé que son matériau était quintessentiellement destiné à une sonate en un mouvement, avec des passages en doubles et en triples octaves entre les sections. Ce qui donne: un «premier mouvement», avec un matériau dynamico-lyrique; un «mouvement lent» où les motifs finissent par atteindre un état d’inertie; un «développement» avec un «scherzo» interpolé; et un «finale lent» avec interpolation de la réexposition de fragments empruntés à toute la sonate. Puis une courte coda revient au début, tout en laissant l’œuvre suspendue en plein ciel, comme pour signifier qu’aucune conclusion affirmative n’est plus possible.

extrait des notes rédigées par Ian Kemp © 2007
Français: Hypérion

Tippett komponierte seine zweite Klaviersonate 1962, kurz nachdem er die Arbeit an seiner zweiten Oper, King Priam („König Priamos“) abgeschlossen hatte, die einen dramatischen Wechsel im Wesen und Stil seiner Musik markierte. Die Oper befasst sich mit den Auswirkungen von Krieg und bösem Schicksal auf eine scharf differenzierte Gruppe von Charakteren—ganz im Gegenteil zu The Midsummer Marriage. Daher schrieb ein Komponist, der für den größten Teil seiner Karriere Musik geschrieben hatte, die natürlich von einer Sache zur nächsten übergeht, jetzt Musik mit abrupten Kontrasten, oft herben Harmonien und für eigentümliche Ensembles. Tippett musste natürlich nicht so schreiben. Man darf schließen, dass er fühlte, dass er die Ressourcen seines früheren Stils erschöpft hatte, und der idealistische Geist der 1960er Jahre mit Skepsis gemildert werden müsste.

Der Einfluss von King Priam auf sein Schaffen war weitreichend. In der zweiten Klaviersonate erstreckte es sich auf direkte Zitate von Motiven aus der Oper und grundlegender auf die Art und Weise, wie die Musik sich verhält. Obwohl die Sonate Passagen von besonderer Schönheit enthält, ist sie im allgemeinen eher mitreißend und kompromisslos. Sie enthält spektakuläre Glissando-Effekte, und sollte (an drei Stellen) die Anweisung „mit der Faust auf das Holz des Klaviers hauen“ (um eine Basstrommel nachzuahmen), aber Tippett entschied, dass das fehl am Platze war. Die Sonate zerteilt sich in viele Abschnitte; in einer Folge von Äußerungen wird eine knappe Geste mit der nächsten knappen Geste konfrontiert, und es ist leicht zu verstehen, warum er das Werk ursprünglich „Mosaics“ (Mosaiken) nennen wollte. Er gab diese Idee auf, als er erkannte, dass sein Material im wesentlichen so angelegt war, dass es eine einsätzige Sonate bildete, mit Passagen in Doppel- und Tripeloktaven zwischen den einzelnen Abschnitten: also ein „erster Satz“ mit dynamischem und lyrischem Material, ein „langsamer Satz“, in dem die Motive schließlich einen Zustand von Trägheit erreichen, eine „Durchführung“ mit eingeschobenem „Scherzo“ und ein „langsames Finale“ mit eingeschobenen Reprisen von Fragmenten aus der ganzen Sonate. Eine kurze Coda kehrt zwar wieder zum Anfang zurück, lässt das Werk aber sozusagen in der Luft hängen, als ob sie sagen wollte, dass positive Schlüsse nicht mehr möglich waren.

aus dem Begleittext von Ian Kemp © 2007
Deutsch: Renate Wendel

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