PROGRAMME NOTES

Violin and Piano Sonata

(1961)

Fast – Slow – Fast

The Violin and Piano Sonata comes from the period when Peter Dickinson spent three years in New York, firstly at the Juilliard School as a graduate student and then working as composer, performer, critic and university lecturer. The first performance was given by Dinos Constantinides with the composer at Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, on 23 March 1961; the first British performance was given by Christopher Rowlands and Jan Cap at Lancaster University in 1972; and the first London performance by Diana Cummings with the composer on 4 October 1984.

During his American period, in works such as the first String Quartet, the Juilliard Dances, the Monologue for Strings and the Dylan Thomas Song Cycle, Dickinson’s language was loosely serial, with an interest in rhythmic as well as melodic figures often in violent juxtaposition.

After the British premiere, Gerald Larner wrote in The Guardian: ‘at that time composers could not afford to be sentimental, even declared admirers of Charles Ives. The slow movement – Greensleeves, but with octave displacements reaching high up the E string – and melodic expression everywhere tends to be oblique. But this does not make it an impersonal work, for there is something very characteristic of the composer in the witty way these melodies present themselves – in tricky passages of false harmonics or disjointed puppet-like rhythms. During the first two movements and much of the third the two instruments are in conflict with each other (more like Bartok than Ives) which is something else to prevent an unequivocal emotional statement. But the violin and the piano combine at the end, where the structural threads are satisfyingly drawn together’.

© 2008-17 Peter Dickinson

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