Hoddinott's concern is always with the musical discourse or argument to hand and this is what makes the cycle of sonatas such a satisfying cumulative experience. As Michael Oliver wrote in his review of the disc of Sonatas Nos. 1-5 in Gramophone magazine 'as these works follow each other you can hear ideas in one sonata prompting further explorations in the next'.
Expressionistic dreams, Taliessin’s spells and Lisztian coruscation.
Monmouth-based Nimbus have shown themselves to be stalwart and inspired fighters for Welsh music. This stance is evinced through substantial commitment – not token representation. Both Mathias and Hoddinott have been principal beneficiaries. In addition to this disc there is an orchestral CD (NI5357) and one more pairing Hoddinott and Mathias in brass ensemble music (NI5466).
Hoddinott knew no parsimony when it came to musical production. His output includes three piano concertos (all recorded though No. 3 has not appeared on CD yet: ten symphonies, a handful of operas, and a great deal else lying largely unexplored.
Here Martin Jones voices the first ten of Hoddinott’s thirteen sonatas written over three decades from 1959. The assignment had not been Jones’ first contact with Hoddinott. In 1973 he had recorded the Sixth Sonata (Argo ZRG761) alongside the Violin Sonata No. 3 with James Barton. The music is not of the pastoral-tonal school. Hoddinott took the route of modest atonality but within its confines wrote with intensity of mood and keyboard flamboyance. The first sonata, in four gloom-occluded movements, strikes me as a blend of Liszt and Schoenberg. It’s haunting and desperately serious stuff. The three movement second pursues a similar style but is more dramatic in the mode of the Howard Ferguson sonata. None of these works is long-winded - witness the 7:43 of the Third. All are virtuoso pieces in mood and technical armoury. The Fourth is in five toughly concentrated movements. The Fifth (in four movements) combines Lisztian nocturnal assaults and meditative fantasy with the shattered glass protests and sunbursts of Messiaen. John Ogdon, gave the premiere and its storm-dark flamboyance is well suited to his eruptive volatility. The finale is kinetically very exciting. The angular, jagged, craggy and rhythmically adept Sixth Sonata ends in a dreamy and starlit Andante mesto. After the Sixth it was to be twelve years before he returned to the Piano Sonata. In that time some five operas intervened. The Seventh is in five movements and was commissioned by Martin Jones. It is a work of gentleness but also brusque angularity. The last three in this set return to the conventional template of three movements. They’re dramatic works which strike an often sturdily assertive and even defiant note. These sonatas - which blend the expressionistic dreams and spells of Taliessin with Lisztian coruscation - stand in a grand pianistic tradition. Our perspective on them will not be complete until we can hear the other three though. The Eleventh was written in memoriam William Mathias while the Twelfth was for Simon Shewring who also commissioned the Ninth and who studied with Vlado Perlemuter, himself a Nimbus favourite. It is to be hoped that Martin Jones and Nimbus will record these other sonatas (1993, 1995, 2004) complete with the other piano works.
These discs, now housed in a single width case with perceptive notes in English only by Geraint Lewis, were first issued separately as NI5369 and NI5370.
If you would like to explore contemporary recordings of the first two sonatas and can live with mono then also go for Valerie Tryon’s 1962 recordings on Lyrita REAM2108 complete with two Nocturnes and the Elegy – moods meet to Hoddinott’s temperament.