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Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, February 2007

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, February 2007

Like his younger contemporary Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett (1905-1998) maintained a clear musical interest in traditional forms, especially the art of variation. Tippett's First Piano Sonata (1936-1937) opens with a highly expressive, albeit dense, tune that immediately evolves into five variations. Variations again for the second movement, based on Scottish folk-song. If the opening Allegro has neoclassic lines, the Andante tranquillo waxes neo-romantic, touched by soft strokes not so distant from Faure. The Presto hints at Liszt, maybe the opening of the Petrarch sonnets, but here more toccata-like. Donohoe (recorded 21 May 2004) provides a darkly glittering patina for its knotty agogics. The Rondo giocoso con moto could easily be mistaken for something modern by Gottschalk, rhythmically free and often bluesy in its passing harmonies and syncopations. Donohoe gives this music a full-blooded verve, plenty of arpeggios and wrist action. Cascades of sound as we rush forward, with Tippett's seeming to pay homage to Gershwin.

An austerity of sound clusters marks the Second Sonata (1962), whose one-movement structure may harken back to the Op. 1 of Alban Berg. Bursts of color are interrupted by hard staccati and broken-octave passages. Stravinsky's influence of non-linear aesthetic provides a model, like the terse Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Highly sectionalized, the piece offers a series of musical styles, some parlando, others fiercely pianistic or musically parsimonious and stark. Donohoe demonstrates a range of keyboard modalities that makes us want to hear his Gaspard de la Nuit. Some will liken episodes of this sonata to Stravinsky's arrangement of scenes from Petrushka.

Tippett's Third Sonata (1973) seems to model itself after Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata I (rec. 6-8 December 2004). Alternately driving and lyrical, the first of the three movements, Allegro, evolves a strict sonata-form, the contrapuntal sonority a cross between Debussy's pedaled softness and Prokofiev's hard-surfaced glitter. The slow movement, Lento, features a theme and four variations The extended song of the Lento breaks off convulsively for the Allegro energico: repeated, hammered chord and skittish riffs. Another toccata, it picks up a brisk run and then Thor's anger comes down, notes in flurries everywhere. Donohoe plays with conviction and percussive power, and we suspect he has a tender place in his heart for these wily, stylistically diverse efforts.

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News, January 2006

Classic FM, January 2006

Gramophone, December 2005

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