Thursday, September 15, 2005

Tippett piano sonatas


I’m listening to one of a two CD set of Michael Tippett piano sonatas, played by Paul Crossley, whom I’d never heard of, but apparently he’s known and highly regarded for his championing of Tippett’s work. I bought the CDs because I wanted to check how a section in the first sonata was supposed to be played – now I’m not sure if I can even consider playing the jolly thing at all! Crossley plays it with such panache and ease (it’s not the most difficult thing in the world, but it isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination) that my fumbling efforts seem pathetic. Still, at least now I know how the odd bit goes – it’s worse than I thought!
I like the first sonata – it’s more melodic than the others appear to be (I only have the sheet music for the first, so I don’t really know the others from playing them – that is, trying to play them), and since I started work on it again recently, and have been listening to the CD, pieces of it keep floating through my head randomly. The other sonatas are a lot more off the wall: less melody and lots of crashing and banging. But at least it’s crashing and banging that seems to know where it’s going. For the life of me I can’t get with New Zealand’s high lord of composing, Douglas Lilburn. There are similarities in style between the two composers (at least before Lilburn went hiving off after electronic music), and you could almost sense that there is some connection between Tippett’s first and Lilburn’s first sonatina. But Lilburn just doesn’t seem to have any sense of direction; the first sonatina’s first two movements aren’t too bad in terms of having direction, but the last movement’s piffle – and the second sonatina is just a nothing. I’ve heard a lot of Lilburn’s music lately – they’ve been playing it endlessly on Concert FM since he died, but for the life of me I can’t get to like it much. It’s all bits and pieces; nothing holds together. Even Gareth Farr, who’s more of a one-piece-one-idea man, is more effective, because he’s consistently more interesting. I get the same feeling with Lilburn that I do with McCahon: the trendies have got hold of them in both cases and promote their stuff, and we all have to put up with it.
Oh, well, looks like I’m going to be a Philistine forever where these two are concerned.
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