Vincent Persichetti's (1915-1987) twelve piano sonatas were written over a forty-three-year period. The first nine sonatas, written between 1939 and 1950, are strong, integral and varied works reflecting diverse approaches toward synthesizing a number of styles and idioms. In these pieces, the voices of Schoenberg, Hindemith, Copland, and Bartok and jazz are variously combined and distilled within Persichetti's own developing compositional language, with an increasing emergence of an original style that reaches a kind of initial culmination in the expansive Sonata No. 4. The last three sonatas were created over a much longer span of time than the first three, appearing in 1955, 1965, and 1982, respectively. Each of these last three sonatas represents dramatic culminations of Persichetti's musical universe. Throughout his output, Persichetti employs a very wide stylistic palette, embracing diatonic and modal tonalities, pandiatonicism, polytonality, and atonal languages, as well as other diverse musical approaches. Like all of his works, the piano sonatas are brilliantly crafted, with the opening material usually serving as a unifying element for the entire piece. There is a strong penchant for homophonic textures, a great rhythmic vitality in the fast movements, and often a sense of very affecting poignance in the slow movements. Persichetti also uses scintillating registral contrasts and juxtapositions brilliantly throughout all of his piano writing. This first-ever integral recording of these works features six world premieres and is a major addition to the Persichetti discography.
New World Records, Cat. No.: 80677 (2 CDs), released in 2008
BBC Music Choice (5/5 stars): "Persichetti's 12 Sonatas for piano come as something of a revelation. A single musical personality runs through them all, revealed in consistently engaging invention, a strong feeling for attractive keyboard colours, whether in lithe counterpoint, limpid chords or sonorous climaxes, and a sense of form and proportion which ensures that nothing outstays its welcome. Geoffrey Burleson's outstanding performances have clearly been a labour of love, and they're recorded with exceptional fidelity. An impressive achievement all round."
- Anthony Burton, BBC Music Magazine
"Although Vincent Persichetti's 12 piano sonatas embrace a marked stylistic evolution over four decades, each is skilfully crafted, concise, assured and effectively though never garishly wrought for the keyboard, reflecting the composer's considerable pianism. Even the barest polyphonic writing is deployed with such registral care that it never sounds thin or dry. Conversely, climactic chordal passages make a clear, sonorous and clutter-free impact. Certainly Geoffrey Burleson not only observes to a proverbial tee but also relishes the composer's meticulous expressive and dynamic contrasts, elaborate pedal indication and precisely worked-out metric modulations. In fact each sonata comes alive by virtue of Burleson's intelligent virtuosity and caring musicianship, qualities that also manifest in his annotations. It's good finally to have all the sonatas brought together in a world-class, excellently engineered reference edition that constitutes a major addition to the catalog."
- Jed Distler, Gramophone
"A superlative recording. Burleson sails through the difficult passages of the 10th and 11th sonatas as if they were child's play. More important, though, he understands how the music breathes, understands its essence. The interpretations are dramatic and vivid. In short, this release is one of the truly great recordings of Persichetti's music generally, and one of the finest recordings of American piano music that I've ever heard."
- Rob Haskins, American Record Guide