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Michael Gordon: Sonatra

by Vicky Chow

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avanti because it is what it is and it simply keeps gettin' better oh yeah!!!
Thibaut Devigne
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Thibaut Devigne Superb piano work, rich, complex, yet perfectly accessible and brilliantly executed. This is directly in classical works, starting as a mnimalist piece but gladly and intelligently overgrowing those boundaries as the track unfolds.
Michael Mueller
Michael Mueller thumbnail
Michael Mueller Vicky Chow is a miracle. Beacuse there is no other way to describe the near-inhuman level of talent required to perform this.

Comprised of near-impossible length (and spread) scale-based sequences, the structure slowly expands and collapses in a manner that verges on predictable but is never quite so.

The two versions presented here (just intonation and equal temperament) are fascinating in their contrasts, highlighting the nuances of the piece and the brilliance of the player.

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  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      $10 USD  or more


  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    This 180g vinyl record contains both recordings of Sonatra (equal-tempered and just intonation) on the A side and B side respectively, as well as a special edition sheet music score from Red Poppy Music publishing!

    Includes unlimited streaming of Michael Gordon: Sonatra via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 3 days
    edition of 250 
    Purchasable with gift card

      $30 USD or more 




In his original program notes for Sonatra, composer Michael Gordon writes that he conceived of the piece for solo piano as a sideways tribute to Frank Sinatra, but with the sonata form as an equal and opposite force that tugs at the music from within.

“I grew up playing, or mis-playing, the piano,” he notes. “When I started writing Sonatra, I decided that since I would probably only ever write one piano piece in my entire life, I wanted to use all the keys on the piano, and use them often. I constructed long chains or links of major and minor thirds that ceaselessly wind their way up and down the piano. Eventually they start cascading and intersperse with glissandos half the length of the keyboard, sounding to me like the performer has at least four hands.”

Sonatra is slightly more than 15 minutes in length, but when performed in both equal temperament and just intonation, as Bang on a Can All-Stars pianist Vicky Chow has done for her singular recording of the piece, it takes on the aura and personality of a two-part epic.

“It’s by far the most challenging piece of music I’ve worked on,” she says. “When I first looked at the score, I knew immediately that I’ll live with it for the rest of my life. Every few months, I slowly worked up each section, like chipping away at a slab of marble. I had to pace myself, push myself, and be sharp at every twist and turn, or else I’d trip and fall flat on my face.

“Performing it with just intonation adds another hurdle to overcome, because you can easily feel as though the arpeggios spiraling up and down the length of the keyboard are wrong. It adds one more sadistic layer to the traumatic physical experience a pianist or any other musician or athlete puts themselves through when trying to achieve an impossible feat. This is one of those pieces.”


released February 23, 2018


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Vicky Chow Brooklyn, New York

Canadian pianist Vicky Chow (one of our era’s most brilliant pianists) (Pitchfork) enjoys a diverse career as a soloist and chamber musician. Her recordings landed on the top album of the year lists including the Rolling Stone. Her recordings can be found on Nonesuch, Tzadik, New Amsterdam, Cantaloupe, and many others. Vicky Chow is a Yamaha Artist. ... more

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