Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: Sonata #3 for Piano
Catalog Number: JS101
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s Sonata #3 for Piano was written in 2003, one might say at the beginning of the composer’s final creative effort. Originally a re-working of the (now lost) Sonata #1 it quickly assumed it’s own new life…part of a life that the composer knew was ebbing away. And yet he continued to work: Every day he sat down at the piano, exercising his fingers, improvising, writing. He told me during this time period that he wrote an entire fugal exposition each morning as a kind of warm up!
It is possible to say without irony that the sonata exhales the air of struggle and lament, not unlike its counterpart from the 1970s, the Sonata #2 (Statements). Throughout there is also his penchant for counterpoint, harsh dissonance and variation, together with a comfort and mastery in/of given forms. Each movement is a reworking of the main theme, announced at the start of the work, the spiritual “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel.”
Of course, there is no Perkinson music without jazz: Perkinson the player of club dates, Perkinson the arranger, Perkinson the colleague of greats of jazz, from mid-20th century on.
For me the sonata is undoubtedly among his best work for piano; concise despite its grand scale, fiery, and emotionally powerful. It invites the interpreter to share legitimately in the language of jazz, to musically dwell at the nexus of that music and the dissonant concert music of our last century. The Sonata #3 does not compromise or cater to public taste for what is nominally palatable or easy on the ears. In this way it stands at the end of a 20th-century tradition, before music history turned the page to more accommodating subject matter.