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Christopher Norton’s educational piano music – from the bestselling Microjazz series for beginner and elementary players through to his acclaimed series of Preludes Collections (the most recent of which I have reviewed here – Eastern Preludes and Pacific Preludes) his music has delighted millions of players and listeners of all ages around the world.
It’s great to be presented with a more substantial work from this ever-popular contemporary composer: the Jazz Piano Sonata follows the traditional three-movement form, and is a significant concert work for the advanced pianist.
Originally written for, and premiered by US pianist Jovanni-Rey de Pedro in 2013, the work has been performed in several countries already, and is now published by Christopher’s own company 80dayspublishing, courtesy of Boosey & Hawkes.
As you read on, here is a scintillating performance of the full work recorded by its dedicatee, Jovanni-Rey:
Like so much of Christopher’s music, the Jazz Piano Sonata blends influences from jazz, pop and classical music.
The first movement evokes the sonata form used by classical composers, with two contrasting melodic subjects – the first, a light-hearted syncopated figure, while the second a more wistful, lyrical melody. The central development is interrupted by an unexpected Ragtime section, which gives way to a Gershwin-esque bridge back to the recapitulation of the two main themes.
The central slow movement is based on the piece Sierra from Christopher’s Rock Preludes Collection. The mood here is nostalgic and somewhat impressionistic, with a more passionate central section. Players will undoubtedly revel in the emotional nature of this music, with its descending chromatic harmonies.
The third movement should be played, according to Christopher, “very fast”! The mood is stormy and energetic, the writing heavily reliant on juxtaposing block chords with intensely driven rhythmic passages in 11/8 time.
The Sonata culminates with a glissando leading to a more heroic restatement of the movement’s central Phrygian theme. The furioso ending is sure to bring the house down, and it’s no surprise to hear from Christopher that public performances have been consistently well received!
The presentation of the published version of the Jazz Piano Sonata is simple but classy.
The glossy card cover, with its mottled image (see above) simply announces the title, while the rear includes Christopher’s photograph and biography.
Inside, there is a useful note from the composer including an analytical outline of the piece as well as notes on its genesis.
The music itself is beautifully and cleanly engraved, well spaced, presented on cream paper. As always from this composer, there are plenty of performance directions, all easy to read. There is no fingering.
As well as the physical copy of the book, a digital download is available worldwide from the 80daypublishing website. Purchase Here
Christopher Norton’s Jazz Piano Sonata is in my opinion a wonderful concert work, guaranteed to find popular appeal with a wide range of audiences.
This is an easy piece to enjoy on first listen or play, but also rewards repeated exposure, with themes that continue to delight and work their way into your head and heart.
This work is highly recommended for players at around diploma level.
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