Franz Reizenstein is an honorary English composer –and perhaps one of that large band of unjustly neglected masters. I did a little straw poll amongst a few of my musical friends. None of them hard heard his name – never mind any of his music. Yet I am prepared to stick my head above the parapet and state that the Piano Sonata in B is one of the finest essays of this form in the literature. The work was composed in 1944 and was dedicated to William Walton. It is a considerable piece that lasts for nearly half an hour and explores a wide range of emotion and ‘imagination.’ Of course, contemporary reviewers were a little mixed in their reviews. On the one hand there was a recognition of inspiration and ‘more-than-competence’ in the technical layout of the music. Yet there was a direct criticism of the composer’s use of “unassimilated styles” throughout this three movement work. Now, it is easy to find references or perhaps even nods to a range of composers – Hindemith for one and perhaps Alan Rawsthorne Interestingly Reizenstein studied with Vaughan Williams’s but there appears to be virtually no influence from that direction.
Listening to this work some sixty-odd years after its publication lends a fine opportunity to put aside any suggestion of cribbing, of lack of originality or confusion of styles. Surely this work can only be seen as the masterpiece that it surely is – from the technical as well as the aesthetic point of view. Yet I doubt that it will ever become popular in the recitals: I guess the reason why, is that it more of a cerebral work than one of sheer virtuosic display. However, there is nothing in this work that should deter the listener: it is written in a language that is both appealing and satisfying.
The Piano Sonata can be heard on Lyrita REAM2105