Sonatas For All Ages

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Let's lead with a nerdy but apt musicological posit: the sonata is a shifty and elusive form. It contracts, expands and reconfigures to hold any type of musical material, so much so that it is perhaps most accurate to evoke the sonata's original and most basic meaning, simply "to sound."

This week on Hammered! that definition -- "to sound" -- frames our listening of piano sonatas of all shapes, sizes and styles. Our selections run the gamut from formally rigid to structural diffuse and are drawn from over 300 years, including Monday's intermingling of sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (performed on harpsichord by the magnificent Trevor Pinnock, among others) and John Cage (which, like Scarlatti's Sonatas, are ingeniously constructed binary forms).

The juxtaposition of old and new is particularly cool when hearing sonata forms, and in addition to the Scarlatti / Cage mash-up, we'll have music of Ludwig van Beethoven, Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Prokofiev alongside Stephen Hartke, Sebastian Currier, John MCDonald and others. You know it's a good listening experiment when these more recently composed works speak to the utter strangeness of Beethoven's opus 54 and 90 (in magnificent performances by Sviatoslav Richter and Solomon, respectively), and the staggering harmonic innovation of Scriabin's late music.

What's on your list of the twentieth / twenty-first century's great piano sonatas?