Piano Sonata No. 1

One of my earliest compositions, written in 1996 when I was 13: a bright, cheerful, short and sweet piano sonata that doesn’t quite sound unlike Mozart.

I. Vivace – 0:00
II. Andante – 1:57
III. Vivace – 3:38

About me

Two people met and fell in love in the BBC Concert Orchestra. In due course, my brother and I were born. One of my earliest memories of consciousness was when I noticed the Mozart my mum had playing in the kitchen, most likely Piano Concerto No. 23. Not long after that, they left the orchestra and moved to Buxton to raise us. It was towards the end of my time in Buxton that I began composing in earnest and wrote, among others, this piece.

About the composition

I wrote it so long ago that it’s difficult to remember many details, but it was my mother who introduced me to sonata form and explained first and second subjects, so it seems natural that this piece couldn’t be much simpler an expression of the form. I also remember that once I had some notes down, she encouraged me to add some articulation. When I made the performance recently, I have to admit I had forgotten this and wasn’t paying too much attention to the precise articulation I wrote back then. To anyone interested in learning this piece, I will just say that I am not dogmatic and always appreciate the value of interpretation!

About the performance

The piano is an upright Vogel by Schimmel. I chose it myself in 2011. Of all the upright pianos in the shop, it was the only one that really responded to me: I could almost believe I was playing a grand piano. Four years later, I finally have a space of my own in which I can play it without restraint, so what better time to begin producing these videos? So this is recorded in my own home near Cambridge. The larger room ambience is all artificial, a combination of impulse-based reverb and graphic equalisation.

When I composed the piece, I think I must have already had some pianistic competence, but I definitely didn’t understand why it is that everyone says Mozart is one of the hardest to perform. I mention this because although my piece is no Mozart sonata, he was a key influence for me and at the technical level I think many of the figurations are Mozart-like. I was also composing with software called NoteWorthy Composer and didn’t have to be able to play the music myself to hear how it sounded. Well, at this point I must credit my current piano teacher, David Christophersen, for the extremely expressive technique he has been tirelessly trying to impart to me since 2011. Among many, many other things, he has shown me exactly what it takes to play Mozart well, but it was only this year, practising like crazy, recording and replaying repeatedly, that I finally discovered how difficult my own piece is!

So, in summary, both at the audio engineering level and at the musical performance level, I hope I have done it justice.