About the sonata

Out of the distance appaears the introduction -slow but strangely swinging at the same time. It is cold, ascetic and not devoid of some sarcastic overtones. Its main particularity is the hovering of the melodic line round several long, sustained notes, which, although near to each other are certainly not at peace- each belonging to uncompromisingly controversial areas of sound and colour. The allegro bursts into its movement not totally unexpected, but with rather surprising vigour as compared to the lethargic mood of the introduction. The robust character of the first theme should not be exaggerated or taken too much for granted, because it has also other, more dramatic meaning and it at times not free form a tinge of anxiety. This theme changes in a "chameleonic" way its character according to the instrument it is played on and the mood and form of the player. Its apparent rectangularity and symmetricity aren´t more than an illusion.
There is here an acoustic  antithesis to the visual phenomenon Matisse creates in his painting, which  I adore enormously "figure décorative sur fond ornamental" from 1927  (Centre Pompidou, Paris). There the unnaturally straight and upright line (of the sitting model´s back) is totally unrecognizable dissimulated by the rich ornamentation of the background so that it stays practically unnoticed. In more ways is the first movement of this Sonata an hommage to the aesthetic world of Matisse- his dynamism, his possibillity to combine naturalism with abstraction, his calligraphic patterns, his use of the pure colors and the idea always present in his works of movement and dance as an  expression and symbol for other, more profound aspects of the human nature.
The second movement of the first movement of this Sonata melodicly a great kinship to the first one. It is almost a variation on the first subject´s "frame intervals" wrapping it like an envelop, smoothing its sharper contours and rectangular corners. Is the second subject an independent theme so that we have here a bithematic structure of the Sonata movement or is it only a melodic´ ofspring´ of the first one making this movement a monothematic, cyclic form? It is in fact a compromise between the two systems being neither the first nor the second. Constant comparison, however, between the two subjects and adjusting the one in relation tot the other might be an important key to a good interpretation of this movement. In the development section a classical Sonata-form patterns are combined with improvisatory and variational approach using this compromise between the bithematic structure and cyclic form as a point of departure. The intervalic closeness of the two subjects, their kinship, but also their preserved independence made it possible. The cadenza element, very important in my opinion in any Sonata movement, is here also present and important. The middle section of the first movement is also an meditation (not without some nostalgia) about the Sonata form in general in its deeper and more philosophical aspects -aform which endeavours to find a solution for myriad structural problems, elaborate and simple at the same time, which questions the very essence of music questions more than aswers, putting the process of questionning at its center and being therefor the most maybe fruitful and inspiring of all the forms of musical creations. In the first movement of the Sonata as well as in the other two I try to use all the registers of the instrument, believing deeply that even the highest or lowest octaves have an expressive potential of their own -potential of an unique esthetic beauty, which comes to life only when the composer treats those areas as valid means of expression and not only a "cosmetic" device to embellish the melodies of the "middle-class".
During my work on this Sonata I´ve been fascinated and intrigued by the rather strange phenomenon that two chords played in different, remote from each other registers merge sometimes, in spite of all kinds of accoustic obstacles to one harmonic entity, sometimes, however, preserve more or less their consecutive identity as if refusing this alliance. This rather "egocentric" behaviour of chords could be explaned, of course, by their being more or less dissonant, by their harmonic function etc., but these could only be partial explanations- more valid will be those referring to the fields of accoustics in general, psychology piano contruction and others.
If the first movement is in many ways a hommage to the aestetique ideas of Matisse the second one could be conceived as the more "surrealistic" one. Everything is here ambiguous and equivocal. Melodic lines are clearly defined, but the phrazes never really ended, This movement commences and ends with an interrogation mark. The slow sections aren´t as sad as they seem to be. They are mellow, but certainly not "mellow-dramatic"! There is some irony here, which the performer has to discover, but certainly not to exaggerate. The middle Allegro is impatient and angry- no wonder for a movement which theme is being contantly disorted and twisted in different directions.
The third movement of the Sonata is in a free Rondo-form with two main subject. All this movement is permeated by a spirit of dance. The first subject is introduced in a rather ascetic form, almost unisono, so that only the melody and rhythme parameters are left. Succesively it is stripped drom its melodic "garments" left only with its rhytmical scaffolds than from its rhytmical frame so that only the intervalic structure of the melody stays. Those taken away elements are replaced by other ones, but the theme stays always recognisable. In a middle of the described above process the second subject appears suddenly, fugitivily as if just to glimpse for a moment through a melodic "keyhole" into what happens with its "big brother" -the robust first subject and then to disappear again, but it will returns and its structural and melodic role in the organization  of the musical material will become more and more important. The middle section of the third movement refers to medieval music. It sounds much slower than the beginning section, but is in fact quicker. In the Coda all the different elements merge into an explosion of dance, wich transforms then totally giving each a new meaning and character. "We boil at different degrees" said Emerson. This is also true for musical themes, motives and structures.
Avi Schonfeld
Sonata Nr. 2, for piano