Michael Tippett's four Piano Sonatas are among the masterpieces of the twentieth century piano repertoire. The First is wonderfully accessible with its irresistible bluesy finale. The other three are tougher, but they are easy-peasy compared with, for instance, Elliott Carter's piano music.
I grew to love them through Paul Crossley's recordings on CRD, made in 1984/5 with the involvement of the composer and still sounding superb. Yesterday I heard the new Naxos recording of the First Sonata (coupled with the Second and Third) played by Peter Donohoe, and it is quite magnificent. If you don't know these brilliant Sonatas there is simply no excuse not to buy this super-budget priced new release.
But this ultra-low price, and highly recommendable, CD does illustrate the Catch-22 that the recording industry finds itself in. Steven Osbourne's new recordings of Tippett's four sonatas and piano concerto are scheduled for future release by Hyperion. I am sure Steven Osborne's interpretaions are going to be superb, I heard him play them live in Norwich last summer and they were quite exceptional. It will be a great shame if the sales of the Hyperion CDs are pre-empted by the Naxos releases - and I fear inevitably they will be. And if this happens will it deter Hyperion from releasing other contemporary music which is not duplicated by Naxos? - such as their commendable recording of Antony Pitts' Seven Letters which I wrote about in July last year?
I wish I knew the answer to the question I keep asking - Is classical recorded music too cheap?
Portrait of Sir Michael Tippett by June Mendoza, see my article My friends pictured within for more about this artist.
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