Eric Craven: Piano Sonatas 7,8 & 9


Catalogue No: MSV 28544
EAN/UPC: 809730854422
Release Date: September 2014
Genres: ,
Discs: 2
Total Playing Time: 102:29

If any composer has deliberately hidden his light under a bushel, it’s Eric Craven. The Manchester based composer has kept himself out of the limelight until recently with the publication of his major work SET for piano (msv 28525 – also published by Brandon Music), His “non-prescriptive” compositional technique is not like any other aleatory system and its effectiveness is amply displayed by Mary Dullea who has produced these brilliant realisations and performances, which result in music thoroughly new but also attractive, dynamic and always engaging.

Craven deserves to be fêted as one of the most individual and creative composers of the day and this recording should go at least some way to achieving that goal.

Track Listing

    Eric Craven:

  1. Piano Sonata No. 7 – I (3:44)
  2. Piano Sonata No. 7 – II. (4:59)
  3. Piano Sonata No. 7 – III. (4:21)
  4. Piano Sonata No. 7 – IV. (4:07)
  5. Piano Sonata No. 7 – V. (3:33)
  6. Piano Sonata No. 9 – I. (16:04)
  7. Piano Sonata No. 9 – II. (7:40)
  8. Piano Sonata No. 9 – III. (9:14)
  9. Piano Sonata No. 8 (48:46)


The Chronicle

Craven designs his music to incorporate chance, optional phrasing, improvisation and open interpretation. While the music is experimental, this game between composer and performer gives it a very human quality, which makes it more approachable than all this sounds. It’s tuneful enough that people who like more conventional music will appreciate it, while its changes in time and discordance mean that it should appeal to lovers of the more avant garde, too. We like interesting music, so it’s gone down well.

” —Jeremy Condliffe
The Classical Reviewer

For those new to Eric Craven’s music, as many will be, I would recommend listening to his very fine Sonata No.9 first. There are moments in [sonata no. 7] that some listeners might find challenging, but overall this is an enormously interesting work, full of fine moments, played brilliantly by Mary Dullea realising Craven’s ideas to remarkable effect. The recording is excellent. Scott McLaughlin’s booklet notes are an essential addition to this release giving, as they do, detailed information concerning the music and its construction, interspersed with comments by the composer. All of these performances are a very fine achievement by Mary Dullea, realising these fascinating and often captivating works that have moments of real beauty.

” —Bruce Reader
Journal Of Music

In [its] exploration of pianistic sound [the album] points to the abiding centrality of the piano to contemporary composition while also illustrating the instrument’s capacity for accommodating both full-frontal assaults and guerrilla-like incursions. Eric Craven’s three un-dated sonatas (Nos. 7–9) pointedly employ both stratagems. There’s something here of jazz music’s surrendering of the primacy of the composer to the immediacy of the performer, a conceit that rubs shoulders with improvisational licence while maintaining discernible control from a distance. Dullea fills in the blanks to telling effect, adding sinew and flesh to bare bone, finding flex and flux in the motivic crux of music that moves osmotically from loose-limbed jazzy inflections to taut, knotty modernity.

” —Michael Quinn

[Craven’s] kind of wide-ranging technique allows for considerable diversity in the music itself. Much of the material is quite sparse, although it is not Minimalist in the motoric, repetitive style of pioneering American practitioners such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich. Elsewhere the music is dense, even lush, especially in the Sonata No. 9, a three-movement work that has the most traditional profile of the three here. He is a very interesting musical thinker, and there are intriguing ideas here.

” —Peter Burwasser

Craven’s collaborator for these first-rate performances is pianist Mary Dullea. The overall result of all three sonatas is an engaging listening experience that repays revisiting. There is nothing at all off-putting about Craven’s material, and while at times the forms are elusive on a first hearing of such large-scale music, subsequent listens begin to reveal further connections. Significantly more so than in most recordings of contemporary music, the performer’s creative contribution to the result is enor­mous; Mary Dullea inhabits and conveys Craven’s musical landscape with both sensitivity and vir­tuosity.

” —Carson Cooman

The sound is totally clear on this recording and the piano sounds as though it was in a small concert hall for a recital. This is not music for casual listening, but it is fascinating for the serious music lover.

” —Maria Nockin

Eric Craven is a composer who has imagination, a principled compositional technique and last but not least, a sense of continual development. I enjoyed listening to these three sonatas. They are full of interest and certainly do not sound forbidding. I cannot fault the sound quality of the recording: it is clear, balanced and dynamic … this CD presents detailed, nuanced playing/realisation from Mary Dullea who explores a wide range of dynamics, invention and pianistic technique. This is a worthy recording that is not quite as formidable as it may first appear.

” —John France
Montanari Album Du Jour

Though I’m only beginning to get a handle on [Craven’s] music,  and perhaps never will, I’m glad to have made his acquaintance, and hope to hear more. You might describe the sonatas as – and I mean this as a compliment – modernism-lite.  Yes, they’re abstract, angular and dissonant.  But unlike in more severe modernism (e.g., Carter, Boulez), you can actually hear what the hell is going on.  There’s no way to predict what will happen next, but when it happens, you understand why it did. [Sonata no. 7] is a cogent, concise and worthy addition to the latter-day piano sonatas of Prokofiev, Copland, Tippett and Carter. I recommend you give Eric Craven’s Sonatas a try, starting with No. 7.  Happy discovery!

” —John Montanari
Musical Opinion

[Mary Dullea’s] is just one realisation of Craven’s ideas. The result is intriguing.

” —Robert Matthew-Walker
American Record Guide

Dullea has obviously commit­ted a lot of time to this project, and it shows in the quality of her performances.

” —George Adams
Classics Today

What we hear on these two discs is fluid, cogent, pianistically idiomatic, alternately energetic and lyrical, and just plain beautiful. The sureness of touch, variety of nuance, and impressive flexibility that Dullea brings to her gorgeously engineered performances reveal a deep level of commitment and care to Craven’s aesthetic

” —Jed Distler

The surface lushness of Eric Craven’s harmonic language is offset by the discreet volatility of his structures. The challenge: to divine an overarching structural logic from out of those free-floating modules. Craven’s hall of mirrors is hallucinogenic.

” —Philip Clark