John McLeod: Piano Sonata no 3
Product Code: RBCD002_McLeod_Sonata_no_3

The work was commissioned by the University of Aberdeen with financial assistance from the Scottish Arts Council to help the quincentenary celebrations of the University in 1995. It was one...
Price: £0.99   Type: Track Download  


The work was commissioned by the University of Aberdeen with financial assistance from the Scottish Arts Council to help the quincentenary celebrations of the University in 1995. It was one of a whole raft of such works written by composers who either came from Aberdeen or who live and work in the city.

With such commissions there is a danger that though the works may be well crafted, and workmanlike, they may also be uninspired. With this sonata, however, John Mcleod produced a composition of remarkable power, exciting virtuosity and great emotional depth - all qualities shared by the Aberdeen pianist Murray McLachlan who gave the work its first performance. The use of a quotation from Scotland’s greatest Renaissance composer, Robert Carver, makes a particularly appropriate link with the origins of the commission, and seems to lend to the work a perspective of timelessness - almost a universality - which deepens the musical experience.

The sonata is a well argued piece that plays without a break but is cast in two balancing parts. The opening section, beginning with a chord based on A flat (a passing reference to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E flat op 31 No. 3) uses a mosaic construction sometimes employed by Stravinsky and Tippett. Gradually the perspective becomes clearer as a tarantella assumes prominence. Virtuoso writing challenges the pianist as the full resonance of the piano is freely used in developments of considerable intensity. At the half way point a slow bell-like section unfolds a quotation from the Dona Nobis Pacem of Carver’s Missa I’homme Arme. The music is very still and a calm settles, almost as though a far distant past is being recalled. The Carver theme is developed before the opening material is recalled and reworked, showing many thematic interconnections. The sonata ends quietly in a coda which, while recalling the Carver theme, settles on a final A flat -reminding us of the very first note of the work. The opening chord which was somewhat enigmatic at its first appearance is thus ‘solved’ in a final unison A flat, spread over the whole keyboard. The frenetic anxieties of the opening movement are resolved and the virtuoso challenges are finally stilled in this coda of telling piano resonance.