Elliott Carter: Piano Sonata

"Carter’s Piano Sonata, from 1946, is among the stronger expressions of an early Neo-Classical phase, its lucid architecture reinforced with Romantic ardor and brilliant color. Mr. Kigawa did full justice to those attributes." - Steve Smith, The New York Times

"Let's think of the early and gorgeous Sonata (1945): under a certain telluric surface reminiscent of Aaron Copland and Charles Ives ?s hymnic impulse, it already hints at the extreme complexity of the later Carter: the one of 90+ (1994) or of Intermittences (2005), which Elena Bashkirova played in Buenos Aires in 2008. But Carter's enormous technical demands are at the service of expressivity. Time is the defining parameter of this music. Carter reinvents polyphony, and he does so in a very personal manner: each voice has its own rhythm, like characters of the same novel that never meet each other. These rhythms provide an unstable pulse of arduous execution, as it happens in 'Matribute', the third part of Tri-Tribute (2007-08). It is almost a counterpoint of gesture and texture that for a moment seems to substitute the thematic contrast. Charles Rosen, legendary interpreter of the composer, knew that this music depends as much, or more, on color and dynamics as on pitches. Kigawa is a stupendous virtuoso and his interpretation was exemplary from beginning to end. One of Carter's demands is a sensitive interpretation, crucial for revealing the music's meaning. Kigawa did not hide the multiple layers of each piece under a compact appearance; on the contrary, he exposed them and on doing so, he forced the listener to work almost as much as himself." - Pablo Gianera, La Nación

"The two most exciting pieces on the program were Elliott Carter’s Sonata and Night Fantasies of 1945 and 1979–80, respectively. Throughout both of Mr Kigawa’s interpretations, I found myself nearly in awe, both that a human had composed this music and that another human was playing it. The sonata alternated between stately chords and choral sections with frantic notes split open and running in all directions, an effective display of the complexity and challenges of Carter’s music. The Night Fantasies, a “modern-day Kreisleriana”, oscillated between intricate harmonies and scattered dissonances. The swift mood changes were reminiscent of Kreisleriana composer Schumann himself, giving me the sense that even the most “random” chords or phrases had an underlying (though perhaps inexplicable) meaning. Rather than parse this out, I set aside my pen and notebook and rode the choppy, uneven waves of Carter’s music to the end. Does this music’s arguable “lack of coherence” make it any less worthwhile than Schumann’s Kreisleriana itself? I don’t think so, and I think Mr Kigawa did a spectacular job of reminding us all that modern personalities and harmonies can be rendered in such a way that is both dramatic and meaningful. Carter’s music, while well suited to the slightly unfocused vibe of LPR, sounds just as grand – beautiful, even – in a formal recital hall. The people and the setting might change, but the extraordinary notes will always flow from one to the other in the invisible pattern of their seemingly random existence." - Rebecca Lentjes, Bachtrack

"Kigawa’s rendition of the Sonata simultaneously looked forward and backward from 1946. Thus, in choices of voicing, phrasing, pedalling, and gesture, Kigawa didn’t emphasize the piece’s connection to the music of his American contemporaries, such as Copland and Harris. Instead, in his willingness to shear off certain gestures abruptly, to voice both the consonant and dissonant pieces of chords equally instead of balancing them to succumb to inevitable resolution, and to allow angularly constructed lines to revel in their leaping, the pianist played up the connection between the sonata and later, modernist music by Carter (one could readily hear it in places as Night Fantasies’ musical grandfather). In other sections of the piece, Kigawa made the connection between Carter and French neoclassicism, recalling the Parisian musical milieu in which Carter undertook graduate studies with Nadia Boulanger. These areas of the sonata featured lush moments of post-impressionist harmonies, a more delicate dynamic framework, and graceful counterpoint. Hearing both of these stylistic eras/genres collide in the sonata was fascinating. And hearing its “Americana” influences, blunted as a result helps make manifest connections between the Sonata and Carter’s later, high modernist style." - Christian Carey