Fanfare

This disc is titled American Piano Sonatas and offers a rich and intriguing mix of music.

There are nine versions in total listed on ArkivMusic of the Carter Piano Sonata, and Seivewright holds his head high given that Rosen and Oppens are among the competition. Seivewright is uncom­ promising in his approach, and it works well. Angularities are emphasized; obsessive repetitions make their rather manic point well. Seivewright is most tender in the Andante opening to the second move­ ment (of two). A pity the recording is rather thin, as Seivewright seems in tune with the unhurried mystery here. He has no problems holding the concentration in this long (17:29) movement, and pro­ vides some moments of stoic grandeur along the way. An eminently rewarding reading.

Leonard Pennario gives a fascinating, exciting performance of Mikos Rosza’s Piano Sonata in the four-disc box Leonard Pennario: The Early Years 1950-1958 (MSR 1188, reviewed by Peter Burwasser in Fanfare 30:6). I agree fully with Burwasser’s identification of Pennario’s handling of counterpoint as one of the joys of this performance. The slow movement has real poignancy, while the finale almost out-Prokofievs Prokofiev in its relentless spikiness. Seivewright is more laid-back in the first movement, and this loss of rigor shows; the music seems less sure of itself. This charac­ terizes the difference between the two players, and the timings confirm it. Pennario’s three move­ ments are 6:06-6:14-6:14, whereas Seivewright’s are 8:26-7:46-740. Seivewright’s central Andante is fine, full of climactic tensions. Only in the finale are honors fairly evenly divided, with Seivewright finding more of circus-mode Stravinsky than Prokofiev.

Finally, MacDowell, a master of the grand sweeping gesture. While in the other pieces one feels Seivewright is enjoying the challenges the composers throw at him, it is here that one senses that engagement with the music itself is at its highest. The indicator for the central movement, “With naive tenderness,” is here perfectly caught. The finale is not really fierce, as MacDowell indicates (there are hints of studio caution), yet Seivewright clearly has something to say in this music.

A fascinating program delivered with style and flair.

—Colin Clarke