John White: Piano Sonatas Volume II (Later Sonatas)


Pianist Jonathan Powell performs 18 piano sonatas by composer John White.

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About this release

“I write a lot for piano for two main reasons. Firstly, being a pianist allows me to be in touch with a rich and exciting repertoire. This gives me a great variety of role models in terms of vocabulary and gesture with which to formulate and ‘clothe’ the ideas which come to me and seem to need expression. Secondly, being an idealistic rather than a ‘career’ composer, I find the piano a handy vehicle for the uttering (‘Outering’) of compositional thought. That is, the inspiration goes directly into a performable medium without the salesmanship required for getting ensemble pieces played.” John White

Programme notes

If any composer from the last hundred years can be said to have redefined the piano sonata, that composer is John White. A unique figure in British music, his vast compositional output documents a long involvement with the worlds of dance, theatre, experimentalism and electronica as well as with that of the concert hall.

His 180 piano sonatas cover a more or less continuous period from No.1 (1956) to the present day, but with gaps, and no less than thirty-four date from 1973. Read more

About the artists

John White

John WhiteBorn in Berlin in 1936, John White studied piano with Arthur Alexander and Eric Harrison, and composition with Bernard Stevens at the Royal College of Music.

Since that time, he has been continually active as a composer, performer and teacher. His career includes composing and directing music for the theatre, ballet, experimental music and in electronic ensembles.

John has headed the music department at the Drama Centre, London and performed as a solo pianist and accompanist. These have included the Promenade Theatre Orchestra, Hobbs-White Duo, Garden Furniture Music Ensemble, Farewell Symphony Orchestra, Nordic Reverie Trio, Instant Dismissal Symphony Orchestra, Lower Edmonton Latin Lovers’ Choral Society. His collaborations with Live Batts featured unusual, even bizarre combinations of instruments and other sound sources.

In the 1960s and 70s, he was closely associated with English experimental composers. During that time, he invented the British form of minimalism known as ‘systems music.’

John has played bass trombone with the Royal Ballet Touring Orchestra and tuba in the London Gabrieli Brass Ensemble. In addition, John has toured widely as a piano recitalist specialising in late Romantic music, in particular Erik Satie.

In theatre music, he has composed scores for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Productions include The Merry Wives of Windsor and Les Enfants du Paradis.  He has also composed many products for the Royal National Theatre and various regional theatres. Lastly, he has provided musical direction of the Western Theatre Ballet and numerous musicals in London’s West End.


John White has held a succession of teaching posts. These include the Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, Yehudi Menuhin School, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Also, Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) and the Drama Centre, London. He has fulfilled visiting lectureships in various foreign institutions and conducting workshops with CoMA (Contemporary music-making for amateurs). As a result, CoMa commissioned two works for large ensemble.

Jonathan Powell

Jonathan PowellHaving concentrated on composition during the 1990s, Jonathan Powell established an international career as a soloist having studied with Sulamita Aronovsky and Denis Matthews. Over the last decade, he has given solo recitals in the Rachmaninoff Hall of the MGK and been on a six-concert US tour. Other European appearances include Musica Sacra in Maastricht, the series Fundación BBVA in Bilbao, Musica Nova in Helsinki, two solo recitals at the Festival Radio France Montpellier, Borealis Festival in Bergen, the Raritäten der Klaviermusik am Schloss vor Husum, Vredenburg Muziekcentrum in Utrecht, and the Jewish Museum and Altes Rathaus in Vienna.

His recent concerto appearances include Brahms’ Piano Concerto No.2 (Slovak Philarmonic), Liszt’s Malédiction (in Kiev), Finnissy’s Piano Concerto No.2 (Moscow) and Sorensen’s Piano Concerto No.2 (with the Prague Philarmonia), Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.3 and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2 (provincial Ukraine). In recent years, he has broadcast for Radio France, Radio Netherlands, Radio Deutschland Kultur, the BBC and Czech Radio.

He is a passionate advocate of music from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, especially from Russia and eastern Europe, but is also a proponent of contemporary music, having premièred works by Hugues Dufourt, Claudio Ambrosini, Michael Finnissy and others. His repertoire also includes many of the staples of the 19th century (Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann etc). In 2009 he gave the first of many performances of the cycle of Scriabin’s 10 sonatas in single concerts. During 2013 he toured Messiaen’s Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus and Albeniz’ Iberia, while in 2015 he gave numerous performances of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata and Reger’s Bach Variations.

Recent activities include a European tour featuring the complete piano works of Xenakis and, in 2017, Liszt’s Sonata, Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke and several performances of Sorabji’s Opus clavicembalisticum. In 2018 he gave six performances of Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues. He is a featured artist at the Jacqueline du Pré hall in Oxford, giving three annual concerts, as well as teaching and leading workshops for students. He has also appeared at the Indian Summer in Levoča Festival (Slovakia) every year since its inception in 2007, as recitalist, chamber musician, and soloist with orchestra. The first three months of the 2019—20 season will see him perform in the Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine, Paris, UK, Gdańsk, Prague, and the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.

Masterclasses, lecture-recitals and coaching have recently taken Powell to the Janáček Academy (Brno), Oxford University, the Guildhall School and Music and Drama (London), the Royal Academy of Music (London), Akademie für Tonkunst (Darmstadt), Cornish College of Arts (Seattle), and Det Jyske Musikkonservatorium (Denmark). His articles on many aspects of Russian music appear in the New Grove Dictionary of Music. His compositions have been performed by the Arditti Quartet, the London Sinfonietta and Nicolas Hodges. He lives in southern Poland.

  • Sonata No. 105 - John White
  • Sonata No. 106 - John White
  • Sonata No. 107 - John White
  • Sonata No. 120 - John White
  • Sonata No. 123 - John White
  • Sonata No. 127 - John White
  • Sonata No. 131 - John White
  • Sonata No. 132 - John White
  • Sonata No. 133 - John White
  • Sonata No. 136 - John White
  • Sonata No. 138 - John White
  • Sonata No. 139 - John White
  • Sonata No. 146 - John White
  • Sonata No. 147 - John White
  • Sonata No. 152 - John White
  • Sonata No. 153 - John White
  • Sonata No. 156 - John White
  • Sonata No. 164 - John White
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Catalogue number: CR051

Piano Jonathan Powell
Engineering & Editing Adaq Khan
Mastering Adaq Khan
Recording Location Jacqueline du Pre Hall, Oxford
Producer John White and Jonathan Powell
Programme Notes Dave Smith
Artist Photography 
Malcolm Crowthers, Salv Scarpa Photography, and Keith Page
Creative Director John Bevan
Executive Producer Adrian Green

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