Dodgson Sonatas – Vol. 1 – Bernard Roberts – piano – CC4431
£9.99 – £15.99
“On the technical side we get first class piano sound. The project is lifted by the great artistry of Bernard Roberts”
“The sound quality on both discs is excellent. I quickly become unaware of it and found myself hearing only the music”
When sonatas were first invented, in the late 16th and early 17th century, the term meant little more than that such pieces were instrumentally ‘sounded’, rather than, like cantatas, sung. In their early heyday in the first half of the 18th century, and then in the later 18th century when they became intimately associated with a newly ubiquitous domestic instrument, the pianoforte, they were used by fairly gentle folk for mental, emotional, and perhaps spiritual recreation that could hopefully turn into re-creation. This applies to the piano sonatas of Haydn and Mozart and their innumerable lesser contemporaries: but not to Beethoven, whose 32 piano sonatas served intermittently to enliven and entertain, but also to disturb and even alarm, while at the same time testifying to the triumph of newly democratic man. Beethoven’s piano sonatas owe their priority to their embracing a total cycle of human experience. Henceforth, sonatas moved increasingly from the home into the concert hall, making public statements on behalf of us private people. Sometimes their composers (Brahms, Schumann) were aware of a debt to Beethoven,at other times they were conscious innovators ‘making it new’ in a few pieces hardly attempting to emulate Beethoven in range and depth, while being rhetorically charismatic (Chopin, Liszt).
The few 19th and 20th century composers who attained double figures in sonata-making did so because they were themselves fine pianists who enjoyed playing their own music, with or without autobiographical content: as is evident in the cases of Scriabin and Prokoviev. One wouldn’t immediately think of today’s Stephen Dodgson as a composer in this category, though he has, over the last twenty years, become a fairly frequent maker of piano sonatas with clearly defined identity, and with a flair for interior evolution. The three sonatas on this recording demonstrate this in ways that make sense in terms of the piano sonata’s ever-changing history; and although these sonatas are too difficult to be relished by amateur pianists (and still less by their friends obligated to listen to them), they do conspicuously entertain, irradiating the spirit as did Scarlatti and Haydn with their distinct but related notions of sonata, while also calling, however obliquely, on Beethoven’s dualistic sonata principle. The earliest of these sonatas, Dodgson’s No. 2, was written in 1975, and is the only one of the three to be accorded a specific tonality: though this ‘sonata in C’ opens in E flat major and ends its first section (subject?) around C, the bare fifths of which are elided with a dominant seventh of E flat. Juxtaposed with this first subject, is an agitato second section, swelling from a chromatic motif (G flat,F,A) spikily garnished with triplets. Drooping appoggiaturas in thirds, fourths, and sixths pierce the flickering pianism; and it’s at this point that this highly original music suggests kinship with, if nothing so overt as the influence of, another work – the Piano Sonata (1940) of America’s Aaron Copland – and to a lesser degree his other major piano works, the Piano Variations of 1930 and the Piano Fantasy of 1955-7. I have no idea whether Dodgson is conscious of this affinity, though whether he is or not, my comparison is meant as a tribute, since Copland’s Piano Sonata seems to me an indubitable masterpiece. An analogy between the sharp, open sonorities, whether in glit- teringly dissonant two-part textures or in widely spaced, resonantly reverberating chords, often in blue false relation, is palpable; and there’s also a structural kinship in that Dodgson, like Copland, uses reiterated motives paradoxically to generate frustration from superabundant energy, thereby relating ‘old’, ‘eccentric’ Britain to America’s embryonic New World. In any case the disparity between the (andante) first section and the (agitato) second section generates something like the traditional conflict of sonata-style, and when the andante (initially in E flat) returns, it’s mutated into an authentic development that incorporates upward thrusting Scotch snaps into a rising scale, culminating in a Coplandesque climax in bitonal triads. Gently, but only momently, the music relaxes into diaphanous C major, semplice, sotto voce. But there is no resolution: a whirling recapitulation of the agitato section ends equivocally in E flat and is rounded off by a sostenuto coda again fading out on fifths C to G, telescoped with a dominant seventh of E flat. Old Britain seems to be waiting, like young America, for whatever may come next, wide-eyed.
In fact the second and last movement of this sonata is on a large scale while being also a bit of a joke: a scherzo in boogie rhythm, thinly scored but interlarded with plangent parallel sixths and a trumpeting motif of major and minor third (D flat to F, F sharp to A), in dotted rhythm. These features may be loosely classed as Coplandesque – though late Beethoven himself has his boogie rhythms – for instance in the extraordinary scherzo of opus 101 and even, sublimely, in the Arietta of opus 111. Again, energetic forward movement frequently ends in stasis, usually of a major triad elided with its subdominant. This happens, exacerbat-ingly, at sundry pitches, climaxing in blue false relations. An extended coda, in 12/8 alternating with 3/2, returns to, and ceases on, the original dichotomy between E flat and C, with no final resolution. So the sonata as a whole seems volatile in texture, alertly awake yet always on tenterhooks as – given the jittery world we inhabit – we no doubt need to be. Could there be a link between Dodgson’s affiliation with American Copland and his own ancestral status as a remote relative of the Dodgson who wrote Alice in Wonderland? English eccentrics and American newly-borns might walk or totter together, open eared, hand in hand.
The Fourth Piano Sonata betrays a similarly dichotomous structure but, a dozen years later, sounds still more quirkily personal in its Alice in Wonderland logic. The first movement has little obvious connection with the sonata principle; indeed, being labelled ‘capriccioso’, it may have more to do with the whimsical agility of goats. A preludial fantasia, it is barred infrequently or not at all; its quasi-improvisatory pianism whirls in roulades, bounces in staccatos in contrary motion, resounds in clattering parallel sixths. The as though extemporized movement serves as prelude not to a strict sonata movement but to an Allegro di molto in the form of a scattily fast waltz, again comically frustrated in fusing lilting momentum with ‘frozen’ repeated notes, and with crazy cross-rhythms. Occasionally the music recalls Satie’s teetering acrobats and jugglers in his Parade (another echo from Wonderland?). The 3/8 fast waltz alternates with an augmentation of it in 3/4 (crotchet equalling dotted crotchet of the previous section), the keys of the fast and augmented versions dancing nervously around B flat major and B major respectively. The significance of this will be revealed only at the sonata’s close. This loopy waltz movement ends, however, in an almost unequivocally innocent B flat.
The third movement, marked poco lento, is both sostenuto and cantabile, and hints lyrically and harmonically at a resolutory B major, C and D natural ‘opening’ into B and D sharp, in a manner that echoes, at the same pitch, the scherzo of Copland’s Piano Sonata. Ultimately, the movement dissolves sustained song into a quasi- improvisatory cadenza, fading out ambiguously between triads of B major and tritonally distant F major. The music’s ‘serious’ potential seems the more effaced because the fourth movement is again a scherzo in boogie rhythm, glittering and chittering in thinly scored bitonality. An orgy of trills, parallel sixths, and false-related triads increasingly dominate the texture in Coplandesque style, though the whimsicality is very English and, indeed, Dodgsonian. A tempestuoso coda leads into the fifth and final movement, tentatively marked ‘poco allegro’, as though it ought to be kept going, without knowing how or why. Taking up the tonal ambiguities of the earlier movements, it opens in a white note scale rooted on B, with the fourths flattened. Gradually, these E flats turn into D sharps, producing a wedge-shaped consummation of C and D natural into B natural and D sharp. Very slowly, senza misura, through multiple roulades and tremolandos, tonality clears into a coda (largo e sostenuto) in B major: music almost Chopinesque in its aqueously flowing barcarolle rhythm, the sensuous sonority still tingling with false relations and ‘altered’ notes. Vocal-style turns in the singing melodies reinforce the Chopin-nocturne analogy, until the ultimate thematic statement sings in shining sixths. There may be a hint of new birth in these flowing amniotic waters, still glinting with false relations between B major triads and triads of F major, a devilish tritone apart. The final sounds, however, are widely spaced but unambiguously sustained triads of B major, pianissimo possibile. For all its fantasticality, this is an authentic sonata which attains its goal: a sonata by a modern man, for other like folk, meaning you and me.
The Fifth Piano Sonata was written in 1992, for the sixtieth birthday of Bernard Roberts, whom many musicians, including myself, believe to be about the finest Beethoven pianist around, with an instinctive flair also for Debussy and the French school. It’s the toughest of these three sonatas because the least resolved – which may give an added edge to its effervescence. A brief introduction, teetering between G and A, presents fanfares garlanded with trills, leading into an Allegro vivace, perhaps beginning in the Lydian mode on G, though the cloistered key might be C or A or even D: we won’t know, and then only dubiously, until the end. In this allegro the music expands, after a silent bar, into wide-flung crotchet and minim movement, still nervily syncopated and again rather Coplandesque in generating frustration from energy, eventually stalled on those intrusive C sharps. A double bar introduces a second section (or subject?) in flowing 6/8 quavers that turn into nigglingly syncopated chromatics, like a serpent swallowing its own tail. Pedal notes on cavernous C naturals grittily bump into the (originally Lydian) C sharps, with an effect at once comic and scary. Virtuosic arabesques in demisemiquavers induce, however, an embryonic development until the chromatic ‘twiddles’ disperse in a largo coda in pioneering vein, freely in aeolian A with ambiguous thirds.
The second movement is dichotomous in having first and second sections (subjects?) that are ‘diverse, sheer opposites, antipodes’, to call on Sir Thomas Browne’s phrase – later to be capped by William Blake’s aphorism that ‘without Contraries there can be no Progression’. Tonality may be basically C in the first, animated section threatened by sundry, ‘altered’ notes, just as the bouncy rhythm is undermined by syncopations and sudden breaks. The second section, marked alia fantasia, is as though extemporized, more or less unbarred, and duplicitous in key, hovering between C and A majors. The bitonality survives into the return of the animato, which has C sharps as inverted pedal to the original perky tune, in something like C, with altered notes. The chromatic nigglings of the first movement tentatively reappear and, after a brief restatement of the fantasia section, threaten to take over in a coda. This doesn’t in fact happen because the intrusive C sharps, still minatory, guillotine the movement. What occurs next is the closest these three sonatas come to a slow movement: an initially gentle andante in 12/8, opening in two parts, one for each hand. The left hand at first sings falling minor thirds from C to A, in dotted minims, with a chromatic tailpiece; the right hand sways bitonally in falling octaves, sempre legato. Deep A’s as pedal notes support lyrically floating quavers, the two-part writing, increasingly chromaticized, being trebled into organum, ultimately tritonal. The glassy sonority leads to a climax on, if not in, C, and thence to a hazy dissolution in parallel fifths in E flat major-C major bitonality. We end on a dominant of A minor punningly notated as a flat A and E natural, which again seems to be waiting, mysteriously expectant.
But the finale is again one of Dodgson’s ‘dichotomous’ movements, which begins as metrically tipsy as anything in Copland, with comparably dry and wry sonorities. The player is instructed to play in a manner ‘steely bright’, and again the C majorish tonality is stabbed by intrusive C sharps which cause the tonality to disintegrate and the dynamics to subside. When an ‘alia fantasia’ section takes over from the screwed-up metre and tonality of the animato we recognize that these dichotomies suggest that nowadays private whim and fancy, perhaps even at a ‘sur-real’ level, can alone give impetus to the potentially public order that sonatas usually seek for. English eccentrics and American adolescents have a role to play here, though the oddities and obliquities of this fantasia section which (like the Fourth Sonata) gravitates around the C-and D naturals to B-natural-and-D sharp axis, generate wilder agitation when the tempo primo returns. Melodic shapes and metrical permutations grow riskier, starting from 5/8 but moving friskily into 7 + 10/8, marked (and sounding) ‘semplice’. The ‘alia fantasia’ section returns more expansively and in double dotted rhythm, this time extinguishing itself in Dodgson’s E flat-C major dichotomy. A coda at tempo primo juxtaposes the frenzied syncopations with the disarmingly lyrical 7 + 10/8 material, ending in chop-hands, toccata-style ebullience, unexpectedly rounded off by hammered A major dominant triads, followed by open fifths on D and A, with neither major nor minor third. This hardly sounds consummatory, like the end of Sonata 4; but it isn’t meant to, and still sounds rather bravely fanciful, and vividly alive. While there’s life there’s hope, and this music – with its fourth-and- fifth-founded rather than triadic harmony and its metrical intricacies- sounds at once Old English and New American. This is a better way than most to approach a new millenium: on which perilous journey this unporten- tously trustworthy, if or because ‘capricious’, composer is a companion to walk or dance with into wonderlands unknown. Wilfrid Metiers
While some parts of Stephen Dodgson’s work have become relatively well-known – in particular his music for guitar, which has an international reputation – much of his output is known only partially and to a limited circle.
His large output of music for harpsichord is the result of a long association with many of its leading exponents, with resulting requests and commissions, and has attracted a circle of admirers.
By contrast, his equally distinctive and idiomatic writing for the piano has in only two instances been prompted by commissions (Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3).
All the rest has arisen from purely personal impulses. This recording serves as an introduction to it.
Understandably, a good deal of other piano music (including several sonatas) preceded No.l (1959) written when he was 35. No.2 was commissioned by Thomas McIntosh, who gave the premiere at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London in 1975.
It was this work, in addition to several items of chamber music, which introduced Stephen Dodgson to Bernard Roberts. Their association was strengthened when an American admirer of Bernard Roberts commissioned No 3 (1983) especially for him. All subsequent sonatas, now stretching to No.6 (1997) have been premiered by Roberts, who has thereby become an important stimulus in their genesis.
Stephen Dodgson was for many years a teacher at the Royal College of Music, London, where he had himself been a student post-war. For 40 years he has been a well-known reviewer/commentator on the radio in addition to supplying many scores for BBC drama productions over the years. He continues an active and still developing career as composer from his home in London.
Bernard Roberts has long been acknowledged as one of Britain’s leading pianists. His repertoire ranges from the early classics to the great works of the 20th century, and his Beethoven interpretations have received particular acclaim. His highly praised recordings of the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas are all available on compact disc on the Nimbus label and featured recently on the Classic FM hit parade.
Bernard Roberts has performed at all the major British music festivals, and has been associated with Dartington International Summer School for many years. He has toured abroad in the U.S., Far East and Southern Africa and also works regularly in Germany and Denmark.
He has broadcast for BBC Radio 3 for many years, and first broadcast a Sonata by Stephen Dodgson in the programme “The Innocent Ear”, devised by the late Robert Simpson. That was in the ‘seventies, since when he has premiered Sonata No. 3 at the Cheltenham Festival in 1985, Sonata No. 4 at the Dartington Summer School, No. 5 at his 60th birthday concert in the Wigmore Hall in 1993, and No.6 at the Richmond Concert Society in 1997.
Review: I – Music Web International
Stephen Dodgson is likely to be a name familiar to anyone interested in the literature of the classical guitar. His music however should be recognised for a much broader range of achievement … and pleasure. There is a Bassoon Concerto (premiered by Martin Gatt, no less), a Guitar Concerto recorded by John Williams during the 1970s. The Idyll – a light music genre piece – has been broadcast by the London Studio Strings conducted by Timothy Reynish. In 1975 the BBC broadcast the premiere of his impressive Magnificat for choir and orchestra. Dodgson was for many years a teacher at the RCM and for four decades his name has been known to listeners to BBC Radio 3 as a stimulating reviewer and commentator.
His piano music has not made much headway amongst the torrent of material produced every year by composers and publishers. The sonatas (or some of them) have had the odd broadcast on BBC Radio 3. The most notable and challenging occasion was when Robert Simpson included one of the sonatas (I am sorry, I don’t know which) in one of his ‘Innocent Ear’ programmes in which music was played unannounced except by reference to genre (symphony, sonata, string quartet etc) and only identified afterwards. This sort of challenging exercise seems to be beyond the BBC at present and was dropped after a few ‘shots’ during the 1970s and 1980s.
Bernard Roberts has championed the Dodgson piano sonatas since 1970s. His premieres of the sonatas are as follows: No. 3 Cheltenham Festival (1985); No. 4 Dartington Summer School; No. 5 Sixtieth Birthday Concert at Wigmore Hall (1993) and No. 6 Richmond Concert Society (1997). Bernard Roberts commissioned all of these.
Volume 1 of these two CDs was issued in Summer 1998 and the second at Christmas 1999.
All of the sonatas are characterised by a strong feeling of constant change and activity. The Second’s sense of peaceful benediction is reinforced by music suggestive of small glacial hammers. Entrancing rough rhythmed repeated figures fanfare and dance. The second movement (there are only two) closes with music redolent of sleight of hand in which playing cards are repeatedly inverted and turned back and inverted and so on. The sonata ends calmly like a fan quietly folded away.
The Fourth’s galloping percussiveness is cheerily Poulencian. This canter harnesses Petrushka with Gershwin. The music at other times seems to be stepping through the fragments of rhythmic ideas. There is dissonance here but nothing to cause panic. That element simply adds savour. Hungarian bagpipes skirl in the fourth movement which bids farewell in a music-box turn of phrase. This work offers a dizzying display of shakes and trills, of tensions built and released in pearly runs of steely fountains of icy waters and slow-stepping melodic shrapnel. This last element seals the sonata’s lips.
A bell-like dissonance rumbles and cannonades through the Fifth Sonata. Rhythmic ticks, collage-like fragments, hammer-struck icicles, a strolling aggression and a tumble of bell-calls jostle in the first two movements. Waltonian jazziness is to be found in the last movement. This element is jumpily pushed several degrees closer to Bernstein and this is done with a high leavening of dissonance. The Finale, alive with inventive excitement, brings the house down.
The first sonata has a very English strolling theme decked around with dissonant ‘Christmas decoration’. Reference points include music-box Petrushka-isms, a touch of Beethoven (the fate motif from symphony no. 5) and some deftly oddball Gallicism (Satie and Milhaud). The music is avant-garde but nowhere near as tough as the Siegmeister piano music I have recently reviewed. The sonata ends in roguish cheekiness and a sense of indulgently paid-out ‘rope’.
The Third Sonata is, for me, a major discovery. A gracious theme of nostalgic beauty (matching the heart’s-ease of Barber’s Knoxville) is presented with apposite pacing and context. The restful andantino is part Bach and part Finzi (or that’s as close an approximation as I can give) in its night-sky rumination. There is some horsing around but the music seems to inhabit a closed world of sideways glances, loving whispers and warm asides. That fine andante theme rounds out the sonata amid placid waters. There is no trace of sentimentality. A most impressive and loveable work.
The Sixth Sonata is a much more oblique offering. Tough if you have been brought up on Ireland and Bax but clearly a work of enduring inspiration. The memorable episodes include convulsive melody, the manner of an enclosed garden rendered impressionistically, the sheer beauty of the lightly floating dance at 6.10 (andante con moto first movement) and the nocturnal manoeuvres of the finale.
The notes (English only) are by Wilfred Mellers (vol. 1) and Malcolm Miller (vol. 2). We could have done with a lot more information about Dodgson and a complete list of his works and a far more detailed biographical essay should be available on the internet.
The leaflets of both volumes sport the blue and ochre wash of Summer Trees by artist Clive Randall. This was painted in the composer’s garden. On the back of each of the insert booklets there is a nicely relaxed photograph of Bernard Roberts and the composer.
Overall, the music on these two discs (will there be more I wonder) conveys a spirit of grown-up charm, clarity, bell timbres, catchy rhythmic cells and gamelan fertility.
On the technical side we get first class piano sound. The project is lifted by the great artistry of Bernard Roberts – excellent both in the articulation of much dazzling fast music and in probing the poignant heart of the more reflective sections. I fondly recall his broadcasts of Goldschmidt’s piano sonata and (in 1973) Medtner’s Night Wind sonata.
A recommendable pair of discs. If you want to try one first then go for Vol.2 and sonata No. 3. If you don’t like that sonata you may need to try something else. Rob Barnett.
Review: II – Music Web International
“The three sonatas featured on this disc show that Stephen Dodgson was more than a competent composer of piano music, with each providing its own particular challenges for the pianist, and that these works have for far too long been hidden in the shadows of his works for guitar, the instrument that he is most remembered for composing for. The first of the sonatas on this disc, No. 2, is the only one here to be assigned a key, that of C Major, and it opens calmly with a peaceful melody, only for this to be interrupted by spikey rippling effects that seem at odds with the opening theme. The rest of the movement then develops in to a more forceful structure whilst still returning to and referring to the original theme. Wilfred Mellers’ excellent booklet notes here refer to Aaron Copland’s Piano Sonata of 1940 and suggests a kinship between that work and this Sonata; this is more evident in the Second Movement especially in the way that the movement opens and then develops the quite powerful material.
The Sonata No. 4 begins percussively and has little to do with sonata structure, or so it seems; here I would agree with Rob in that it too reminds me of Poulenc, something which is further reinforced as the Sonata progresses. I am struck by the way that Dodgson moves from one short melody to another, seemingly without a break for thought; indeed this is the way it is played also, with hardly a breath between the end of one movement and the start of the next. I particularly like the concluding movement of this Sonata with its slow melodic material being, once again, interspersed with a rippling motif in the right hand.
The final work on this disc is the Sonata No. 5 of 1992, which was composed for the present pianist’s sixtieth birthday. It starts slowly, but gradually builds up in intensity. Its second movement is marked by its diverse primary and secondary thematic material and the dissonance that runs through it (and, indeed, much of Dodson’s piano music). The third movement is the closest that the composer comes to writing a true slow movement, with its slow progression and development heightening the intensity through the strength whith which the keys are played rather than in tempo. In contrast the final movement begins with a real flourish before rushing headlong to the works conclusion.
This music is largely melodic and tonal, although Dodgson’s use of dissonance does make this music sound modern – it certainly doesn’t belong to the English pastoral tradition. However, I found this disc to be rewarding and a fine addition to my growing catalogue of Stephen Dodgson discs. I will eagerly be looking out for Volume 2. To answer a question Rob poses, as to whether there will be any further volumes – well, Dodgson did compose a Sonata No. 7 in 2003, some nine years after he had completed his sixth which appears on Volume 2 of this series” Stuart Sillitoe.
Review: III – Fanfare Magazine USA
To borrow from the notes of Wilfrid Metiers (in Volume I) as a point of departure for this review, the original term “sonata,” as coined in the late I6th century, merely meant music that is played rather than sung. Its later practitioners (Domenico Scarlatti and Padre Antonio Soler come to mind) wrote sonatas that were simple, and often strikingly beautiful self-contained musical statements that seem, to my post-Beethovenian ears, frozen. Forward motion and unfolding drama arc not their point. I call this Rorschach (or, for want of a better term, Gestalt] music—music whose affective power is fully captured in its initial sonic gesture, and though that gesture may reveal new facets as it is developed through time, it is the instantaneous gesture, not its subsequent development (colorfully surprising as it might be), that reigns supreme After Debussy, Stephen Dodgson (by the evidence on these two discs) is one of this kind of music’s most resourcefully inventive and unfailingly eloquent champions.
Stephen Dodgson (b. 1924) was born and educated in London. In the course of his studies at the Royal College, scholarship grants allowed him to broaden his musical horizons by visiting Italy several times. He became a teacher at the Royal College, and counted among his pupils guitarist John Williams A fruitful relationship developed, yielding, among other works, the Duo Concerto for Violin, Guitar, and Strings (performed by Jean Jacques Kantcrow, Anthea Gifford, and The Northern Sinfonia under Ronald Zollman and the Partita for Guitar (played by Paolo Spadetto on Bongiovanni). These, among several harpsichord pieces, were the first to gain international recognition. Several subsequent flute pieces currently grace the catalogue—the Concerto for Flute and Strings (inspired by the technique and musicality of Robert Stallman, and performed by the same along with The Northern Sinfonia under Ronald Zollman on the same Biddulph release noted above), and The Facry beam upon you for solo alto flute (also performed by Stallman). Those recordings marked my first acquaintance with the music of Dodgson.
Dodgson has distinguished himself as a reviewer/commentator on the BBC, and continues to compose in has at once gloriously accessible and piquantly challenging style—one that stems from mainstream 20th-century English music, but one that consistently enlivens than language wish both continental and American accents, Dodgson requires and deserves active, focused listening. Nothing less will do.
The six sonatas on these two discs were written between 1959 and 1994. Each is a highly individualized creation and to look for a head-bone-is-connected-to-the-neck-bone developmental progression is an exercise in casuistry-inspired futility, Dodgson, like Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven before him, wrote at and for the moment—the only moment of any real moment The very capable annotators of these two releases—Wilfrid Metiers (Volume I) and Malcolm Miller (Volume 2) draw many telling parallels between these sonatas and those of Beethoven, Copland, and Prokofiev. The music of Satie also comes into play. Their comparisons are correct but leave the potential listener who has no access to their actual sound with the possible impression that Dodgson is a derivative composer, rehashing the already digested past into a language accessible to the current public. Nothing can be further from the truth. Dodgson is an eclectic composer much in the mold of Mozart—a master who incorporated the trends of his time into a new, fresh, and inimitable, amalgam. In any given sonata, Dodgson can be atonal, bitonal, or quirkily Romantic (sometimes all at once). He is, as my opening paragraph implies, aphoristic—his first statement defines all that follows it, and that may be an oblique glance at the dance-hall-inspired language of Les Six, or at the final movement of Beethoven’s Op. 111.
These performances by Bernard Roberts (currently the only act in town) certainly sound authorative. Everything is in place-the technical demands of this often knotty music are roundly conquered and placed at the service of what Dodgson has to say. Everything is thoroughly prepared, yet these performances seem refreshingly improvisatory, Roberts’s Beethoven performances are currently acclaimed in England. From the evidence given here, I can surely believe that and can appreciate how his brand of musical perspicacity and insightfulness so effectively enliven these scores. The sound quality on both discs is excellent. I quickly become unaware of it and found myself hearing only the music.
Recommended for pianists of all ilk’s for all lovers of piano music, and especially for those who want to hear something that is not only exhilarating but musically informing. William Zsgorski.