K001 Piano Sonata

deutsch K001 Sonate für Klavier


Sonate für Klavier in fis-moll - Sonate pour piano en Fa#-mineur - Piano Sonata in f sharp minor - Соната для фортепиано - Sonata per pianoforte in Fa diesis minore

* There is no authorized original title for this piece.

Construction: A four-movement instrumental work in traditional sonata form, each movement having, respectively, 318 (332 including the repeat), 429, 168 and 390 bars. The published edition was not authorized by Strawinsky, and so there are no binding movement headings, metronome marks, corrections or even an original title. Annotations to the autograph score were presumably added by Nicolas Richter, rather than Strawinsky. Only the first movement has a tempo marking (Allegro). There are also a few general tempo indications and dynamic markings. Other accidentals in the published edition were added – often by analogy – by Eric Walter White in his 1973 edition of the sonata and are indicated as editorial additions or improvements.


The first movement contains 318 bars, according to the bar numbers, but is in fact 332 bars long, because bars 287-298 are repeated and there is a two-bar 2nd time bar for the repeat. The F-sharp minor key signature remains until bar 214 inclusive, and the key signature changes from bar 215 to 252 inclusive to D-sharp minor, and then back to F-sharp minor. The 4/4 time signature, which is kept throughout the piece, becomes >più lento< in bar 28, and the tempo then slows in bar 29, returning to the original tempo in the same bar. The other differences are the change between >poco agitato / agitato< (bar 53/287), >ritardando< (bars 55, 60, 76, 105), >a tempo< (bars 61, 97, 106, 212, 243), >più mosso< (bars 71, 93, 253, 276), >Tempo I< (bars 89 and 271), >poco accelerando< (bar 104), >ritenuto< (bars 182, 214, 237, 242, 285), >più largo< (211), >meno mosso< (bar 279). Structurally, it is a copied version of Sonata form without introduction but with coda.

– The second, untitled, movement, referred to as >Vivo< by White, is 429 bars long and in 2/4; it is in A major, which changes to F major and to a 2/4 time signature for the trio-like middle section at bars 145-235. The movement uses the Classical Scherzo form.

– The third, also untitled, movement, which is called >Andante< by White, has the function of an Adagio and is again in three sections. It is in D major, modulating in the middle section (bars 57-89 of its total 168 bars) to G major without changing its 6/8 time signature, and returning again to the home key. The final bars have a modulatory function, in that they transfer the third movement into F-sharp minor, which is the original key of the piece, without a break.

– The 390 bars of the fourth movement were referred to as >Allegro< by White. They create an A-B-A1 structure consisting of a first section (up to bar 162), a middle section labelled >Andante< by Strawinsky with a differently structured inner form (bars 163-263), and a return to the A section with an >agitato< coda from bar 318.

Style: An apprentice piece of an advanced kind preserving the rules of a chromatically extended major-minor tonality with no particularly striking rhythmic or structural peculiarities.

Dedication: Dedicated to Nicolas Richter.

Duration: Approx. 30’.

Date of origin: Between mid-1903 and 1904 in St Petersburg and on the Pavlovka estate of Strawinsky’s uncle, Alexander Yelachich, near Samara on the Volga.

First performance: 9/21 February 1905 in Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s private circle of friends in St Petersburg. The soloist was Nicolas Richter, who performed the piece again shortly afterwards at one of the concerts organized by the Evenings of Contemporary Music in the city.

Remarks: In 1902 Strawinsky travelled to Heidelberg from Bad Wildungen and met Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, one of whose sons was studying in the town. We do not know which compositions he took with him, only that Rimsky advised the correspondingly dejected composer to study harmony and counterpoint, not, however, at the St Petersburg Conservatory, for which he was said to be still unsuited, but with a private tutor. In the summer of 1903 Strawinsky began work on what he described as a ‘grand’ piano sonata but encountered so many formal difficulties that he decided to renew contact with Rimsky-Korsakov, who was on holiday at Krapachukha in the Valdye Hills near Okulovka. This was towards the end of the summer of 1903. Their meeting was decisive for both men, marking as it did the start of a teacher-pupil relationship that lasted three – not five – years and that culminated in a vague ‘friendship’ best described with the use of quotation marks. Strawinsky remained with Rimsky-Korsakov for about two weeks. During this period, the older composer introduced him to sonata form and got him to write the first movement of a sonatina under his supervision. He also taught him the rudiments of orchestration. All further information about this period derives from sources other than under Strawinsky’s name published reminiscences ‚Chroniques de ma vie’.

Situationsgeschichte: Rimsky-Korsakov, who was entrusted with various imperial supervisory positions alongside his commitments as a composer and Conservatoire professor, had organised a salon-like private circle in St Petersburg, which he held, as was normal in the tradition of the 19th Century in many of the finest houses, generally on specific weekdays, on Wednesdays. He attracted the most important musicians from home and abroad, and some of Strawinsky’s early compositions, such as the Piano Sonata, were premiered at these Wednesday gatherings. Many details about Rimsky-Korsakov’s Wednesday gatherings were revealed in Yastrebtzev’s memoirs of Rimsky-Korsakov, which were published in 1962 and which Strawinsky became familiar with. Apart from these, there also existed in St Petersburg a public series of concerts entitled “Evening circle for contemporary music”. Early works by Strawinsky were also played here, including the Piano Sonata, performed again by Richter. Strawinsky, who spoke fluent German, acted as interpreter for Rimsky-Korsakov in the presence of any German guests.

Strawinsky’s own assessment: Strawinsky held this work in such low esteem that he did not include it in his work-list. Nor did he dignify it with an opus number during the brief period when he still followed this practice. Indeed, he later expressed delight at the fact that the piece appeared to have been lost. With the exception of the Funeral Dirge that he wrote on the death of Rimsky-Korsakov and that he himself held in high regard, this is also true of all his other early works, to none of which he gave his imprimatur. He took so little interest in them that when his early song, The Mushrooms Going to War, see KN5, was returned to him, he did not even open it. And when Strawinsky returned to St Petersburg – or Leningrad, as it was then called – in 1962, no one took the trouble to inform him that several of his early works had been discovered, well preserved, in a safe-deposit box at the city’s Public Library. Presumably the library staff knew the problems that might arise from this discovery during the composer’s lifetime: notoriously self-critical, he would presumably never have allowed such juvenilia to appear in print, especially when he had already refused to authorize and publish his Piano Sonata at a time when he had still had access to the manuscript.

Autograph and manuscript history: It was André Schaeffner’s 1931 study of Strawinsky that first alerted the world to the existence of the Sonata, an existence confirmed by a brief passage in the composer’s autobiography of 1935. Presumably Strawinsky himself later provided the information that the work was in four movements (1. Allegro; II. Andante; III. Scherzo; and IV. Finale), that it had been written in St Petersburg and Samara in 1903 and 1904 and that it was dedicated to Nicolas Richter. Schaeffner remained the most impartial and reliable writer on Strawinsky until the end of the Second World War. According to his carefully researched monograph, the autograph score of the piece had passed into the hands of its dedicatee. Apart from odd comments by Strawinsky himself, these were the only details that were known about the piece for more than thirty years. As such, they provided the basis for all later accounts. For a long time the manuscript was believed to be missing. Then, in 1971, Vladimir Smirnov in Leningrad published a copy of a piano Scherzo that dated from 1902 and that therefore predated the F sharp minor Sonata. The Russian edition of the Strawinsky–Craft Dialogues that appeared that same year – 1971 – included a list of previously unknown works by Strawinsky that had come to light in the meantime. The list, which was compiled by Ivan Beletzki and Ivan Blashkov, included the present Sonata. Eric Walter White published it in 1974 with the agreement of the composer’s widow, Vera Sudeykina. Published by the London-based firm of Faber Music Ltd, which also owns the copyright to it, this anglicized edition of the F sharp minor Piano Sonata runs to 42 quarto pages (4°) and includes a foreword and editorial notes.


No editions were published during Strawinsky’s lifetime. None of the subsequent editions was authorized by him.

K Cat­a­log: Anno­tated Cat­a­log of Works and Work Edi­tions of Igor Straw­in­sky till 1971, revised version 2014 and ongoing, by Hel­mut Kirch­meyer.
© Hel­mut Kirch­meyer. All rights reserved.
https://kcatalog.org and https://kcatalog.net

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