ANDREW VIOLETTE (b.1953): Piano Sonatas Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
Catalogue Number: 02Q084
Description: Andrew Violette is an unique figure in contemporary music, strangely under-acknowledged despite the multiple strengths of his music; its bold and exhilarating originality; its sheer variety and scope of expression; its ready accessibility despite his refusal to compromise in respect of certain characteristics that ought to make it the exclusive preserve of a very few dedicated specialists. His musical journey has been a very personal one, documented through an evolving style that lays bare the development of a complex personality with almost embarrassing intimacy, while simultaneously inviting the contemplation of profound truths on an universal scale. Violette started out with impeccable modernist credentials, counting such luminaries as Sessions, Carter, Luening and Boulez among his early teachers or occasional guides. He went through various stages of avant-gardism of various kinds, serialism and other -isms, before arriving at the early stages of development of his personal style in the late 1970s. A bona fide composer-pianist in the grand tradition, he writes formidably difficult music for his own instrument with a sure and thorough knowledge of what he's doing, and performs it with complete technical command. The first three sonatas followed one another in close succession at the end of the 1970s. Nos. 1 and 2 are of modest proportions and relatively conventional movement divisions. There are serial elements in the composer's idiom at this stage, and very little sense of conventional tonality. The works are very dissonant and tautly structured. The Third is another matter; the first multi-section sonata of unusually large scale in the composer's output, it lasts well over an hour, and explores a greater range of styles and influences. It also unfolds at a pace that cannot be called leisuirely, given the quantity of material and event that it contains, but certainly sections are allowed whatever time they need to develop. The Fourth Sonata is more individual, and also more extreme. The first part contains a sequence of dances that make liberal use of clusters, and the music has a strident brutalism that is viscerally exciting but exhausting. The longer second part is mainly an extended variation structure, like a long-breathed chorale prelude on a Lutheran hymn. The harmonic language is increasingly dissonant, but only after considerable time do the hammering clusters of part one re-emerge. The Fifth also begins with wildly dissonant textures in an extravagant fantasia on an Appalachian folk hymn, with subsequent sections more melodic and with a strong strain of Romantic expression making itself felt. The Sixth is much more compact, effectively an extended virtuoso etude in several sections, in a vocabulary that, while dissonant, now observes harmonic conventions throughout. 3 CDs. Andrew Violette (piano). 2005 release.