Piano Sonata No. 2 (Sessions)

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Roger Sessions' Piano Sonata No. 2 was composed in 1946.[1] It has three movements:

  1. Allegro con fuoco (tempo quarter note=120)
  2. Lento (quarter note=50)
  3. Misurato e pesante (quarter note = 66–72)

The first two movements each end in a slight pause, followed by a briefer pause.[2]

The opening motive of the first movement, an upward-leaping fourth followed by a minor second and a major second, is related to the major second-minor second alternation of the main theme of the Lento.

The first two movements are tripartite in form[3] while the third has been compared by Richard Dyer to a toccata.[3]

Sessions worked on the sonata in conjunction with his second symphony, completed the same year, and his opera Montezuma, but the latter did not achieve final form until much later.[4]

The sonata is one of Sessions' relatively often-recorded works.[5] Of his others the First String Quartet (1936), Pages from a Diary (1939) and his First (1930) and Third Piano Sonatas (1965) have been recorded as often or about as often.


Sources: Olmstead Discography ; WorldCat

  • Noël Lee, piano on 1960s Valois LP "MB 755", "La Musique Américaine de piano au XXe siècle : Volume 2" with works by Aaron Copland and Elliott Carter.
  • Beveridge Webster, piano on Dover Publications LP "HCR-5265", "Modern American Piano Music" with works by Aaron Copland and Elliott Carter.
  • Alan Marks, piano on Composers Recordings S-385 LP from 1978.
  • Rebecca La Brecque, piano on a ca. 1981 Opus One LP, Opus One 56, "The Three Piano Sonatas".
  • Randall Hodgkinson, piano on New World Records LP "Fantasies and Impromptus", 1984. Coupled with Donald Martino's Fantasies and Impromptus. Reissued on CD with Sessions' Piano Sonata no. 3 played by Robert Helps.
  • Barry David Salwen, piano on Koch International Classics CD 3-7106-2H1, The Complete Piano Music of Roger Sessions (absent a few brief piano works from the 1930s), released 1992.
  • Peter Lawson, piano on Virgin Classics 1993 CD 61928. Coupled with works by Charles Tomlinson Griffes and Ives.
  • William Cerny, piano on Wilmarc Records, 1998 CD. Coupled with the Sonata, 1967 of Peter Mennin.
  • Robert Helps, piano on 1998 CRI CD 800.


  1. ^ The score indicates that the work was finished in Berkeley, California in November of that year.
  2. ^ in essence they follow each other without one, and in the Edward Marks 1976 score the three movements' measure numbers are numbered consecutively rather than starting again with 1: bars 1-168, 169-230, and 231-404.
  3. ^ a b Dyer, Richard. "Notes to Recording of Second Sonata and Martino Fantasies and Impromptus". Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  4. ^ Prausnitz, Frederik (2002). Roger Sessions: how a "difficult" composer got that way at Google Books, page 253. Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ "Olmstead Discography". Retrieved 29 January 2010.