Michael Tippett: Piano Sonata No.2 (1962)
The work issues from certain procedures in the orchestral
piano part of King Priam, and from the formal dramatic structure of that
opera. I have used two short quotations from this piano part to build two sections of the
piano sonata. But the form of the sonata is the more important derivation.
Everything in the sonata proceeds by statement. The effect
is one of accumulation; through constant addition of new material; by variation and
repetition. There is virtually no development and particularly no bridge passages. The
formal unity comes from the balance of similarities and contrasts.
The contrasts are straightforward ones of timbres and
speeds. But there are also contrasts of function. Music can appear to flow; or to arrest
itself especially through the device of ostinato; or temporarily stop, in a silence. These
kinds of contrasts are used constantly.
Because the work is for one player and one instrument there
is little opportunity for the climax of a jam session, i.e. when
the contrasting sections, or bits from them, instead of being just sequential, are made to
appear together. These climaxes (there are several in King Priam)
are more appropriate to an orchestral piece in this form. But the sonata nevertheless has
a kind of climax coda where the bits of addition and repetition are made very
small and the resulting mosaic therefore more intense.
Sonata No.2 is dedicated to and was first performed by
ŠSir Michael Tippet 1984