ERIC CRAVEN (b.196?): Piano Sonatas Nos. 7-9.
Catalogue Number: 09Q094
Description: Craven's compositional technique, extensively explored in these three substantial works, is what he calls 'Non-prescriptive' notation; that is, precisely composed music that nonetheless leaves certain parameters entirely to the discretion of the performer, turning every performer's realization of the work into a collaborative effort, which may vary considerably from one another. In fact, the Seventh Sonata includes a nice example of this; two of the movements are identical on paper, challenging the performer to make different pieces of music out of them. The composer identifies three levels of collaborative freedom, from low to high order Non-Prescription, ranging from pitch and rhythm precisely notated, but nothing else, to pitched note-heads with no other information whatsoever. The middle ground, used throughout the 8th Sonata, has fully written-out low order snippets of music that can be freely assembled by the performer. The question, of course, is, however interesting peering into the windows of the composer's workshop may be, what does the resulting music actually sound like? The answer, perhaps a little surprisingly, is; not as avant garde as it very easily could be. Where Craven exercises the most control, the result has a fragmented but recognisable 'Englishness' to it, and in both the 7th and 9th an emphasis on harmony built on fifths and fourths gives the music a vaguely modal air, while the terse, economical phrasing suggests a follower of an old-school English piano composer - Alan Bush, perhaps, or Tippett. The 9th has a more 'romantic' flavor than the 7th, with harmonies suggesting Scriabin by way of Foulds, cut up and reassembled into something new - significantly less tonal, but definitely related. It is apparent that Dullea, a contemporary specialist, tends to push the music in a more modernistic direction, when given the freedom to do so - her second version of the two identically notated movements, for example, contains some direct contact on the strings (which is allowed under the 'rules' of the 'game'). The overall duration of the 8th is not predetermined; Dullea's is almost fifty minutes in which extended phrases assembled from groupings of fragments, repeated but varied, ebb and flow in a leisurely dreamlike sequence of ambiguously connected events - some strangely familiar, and with repetition enhancing this familiarity, lending them a similar memory-signpost function as themes in more conventional musical argument. 2 CDs for the price of 1. Mary Dullea (piano).