William Bland Piano Sonatas Anything But

From 1998 through 2014 William Bland quietly composed a massive body of work. It’s a cycle of piano sonatas, one of each major and minor key. The sonatas run about 20-30 minutes each, and each sonata has its own character.

This release doubles the number of Bland’s sonatas to be recorded. Bridge Records previously released the composer performing his fourth and fourteenth sonatas. Here Kevin Gorman — in his recording debut — performs sonatas nos. 17 and 18.

If I had to characterize these works, I’d say they sounded like a modernist Liszt. Bland is very much a tonal composer with eclectic tastes.

There are elements of jazz, pop — and even atonality — that appear in these works. And they’re all smoothly integrated into the mix. Bland’s music is jam-packed with thematic material. But it’s all carefully organized.

Bland knows where he’s going in this music, and Kevin Gorman ably escorts us from beginning to end. The textures are thick, which brought Lizst to mind. Gorman has a fine command of his instrument. And — as usual — Bridge records the piano in a way that sounds natural and precise. It’s the sound I would expect to hear in recital.

Bland has a natural gift for melody. Some of the movements are heartbreakingly beautiful. These are true masterworks. Gorman’s performance whetted my appetite. First on my action list is to seek out William Bland performing the other two sonatas (BRIDGE 9223). Second is to be patient — and hope that in time I may get to hear the entire cycle.

William Bland: Piano Sonatas
Sonata #17 in A minor; Sonata #18 in G minor
Kevin Gorman, piano
Bridge Records 9556

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