horizontal line

This first volume in Danacord’s series devoted to American piano music spreads its repertoire wide, from the first of Alexander Reinagle’s Philadelphia Sonatas – the first piano sonata composed in the US, in 1786 – to Elie Siegmeister’s wartime triptych of 1944. Reinagle (1756-1809) was actually born in England to Hungarian and Scottish parents and the Philadelphia Sonatas were composed shortly after his arrival in the then still young United States. The bipartite Sonata No 1 clearly shows that Reinagle knew his Haydn and Cecile Licad’s nimble playing displays his melodic acumen very nicely.

The inclusion of Edward MacDowell’s Tragica Sonata (1893) rather than Ives’ epic 1905 Sonata is a better fit for this programme. Licad has the measure of MacDowell’s four well-constructed movements and if these do not seem overly tragic in character that is more the nature of the music – Sonata drammatica might be more apposite – than her performance, which ranks well with other rivals such as Amato’s (Altarus).

Griffes’ three-movement Sonata (1918-9) shakes things up as it should, through its direct expression, formal concision and rhythmic drive. This is perhaps the most recorded work here, yet still not really well known. Licad is less comfortable in the opening Ferocemovement than the finest of her rivals (Lewin on Marco Polo, Landes on Koch), but the rest of the sonata is nicely shaped. So, too, is her account of Siegmeister’s American Sonata – a work that grows in stature as it proceeds after a slightly inconsequential opening allegro. Good sound from Danacord.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

   Read full review   

To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.

Read more classical music reviews online here:

Piano International, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing