The Piano Sonatas of Lowell Liebermann: A Performer's Analysis
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This overview of Liebermann’s three piano sonatas is intended as a resource for teachers and performers. After a brief background of the composer, the author examines the compositional environment in the mid-twentieth century, features of the twentieth-century American piano sonata, trends in the twentieth-century nocturne, and Liebermann’s compositional style. The analyses of three works provide information on form, thematic and motivic development, textural contrast, harmonic content, rhythmic variety, and his integration of modern idioms into pre-existing forms. Liebermann wrote his first major work, Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 1, in 1977 while in high school studying under Ruth Schonthal. He follows classical traditions in the first of four movements, combining sonata and fugual forms. The second and third movements are simple ternary, and the fourth merges rondo and ABA forms. The performer must blend several characters, with sensitivity and tranquility in the slow movement and rhythmic vitality and clear articulation in the fast movements. The Sonata No. 2, Op. 10, “Sonata Notturna,” was composed in 1983 while Liebermann was studying with David Diamond at Juilliard. Here, Liebermann merges the lyricism of the nocturne with the structure of the sonata into one movement containing a lengthy double exposition with a brief development and recapitulation. After a nearly twenty-year hiatus, Liebermann wrote his longest piano solo work to date, the Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 82. It is likely that Liebermann was influenced by the events of September 11, 2001. Published one year later, the third sonata includes a Dona Nobis Pacem and Lullabye in the middle of three sections/movements, giving the listener a sense of eternal peace amidst the agitation of the outer movements.
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