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Ives: Concord Sonata & 17 Songs

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, 10 May 2004
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Product details

  • Composer: Charles Ives
  • Audio CD (10 May 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Warner Classics
  • ASIN: B0001HZ6MO
  • Other Editions: Audio CD |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 247,370 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Product description

Product Description

Warner Classics commemorates the 50th anniversary of Charles Ives’s death (19th May 1954) with a disc combining his ground-breaking Concord Sonata, performed by the effortlessly virtuosic French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard and a representative selection of songs in which Aimard accompanies Susan Graham, the “superb American mezzo at the peak of her powers” (The Sunday Times, London). Ives included optional obbligato parts for the viola and flute in the first and fourth movements respectively of the Concord Sonata, which are performed here by violist Tabea Zimmerman and flautist Emmanuel Pahud.
Charles Ives (1874-1954) was “one of the most remarkable American composers, whose individual genius created music so original, so universal, and yet so deeply national in its sources of inspiration that it profoundly changed the direction of American music” (Nicholas Slonimsky). Ives played the drums as a child and studied the piano, organ and cornet. He composed several works while studying at Yale but, on graduation, became an insurance salesman. In 1921, at his own expense, he published his technically formidable Concord Sonata, inspired by the writings of Emerson, Hawthorne, the Alcotts and Thoreau. In 1922 he published a volume of 114 songs written between 1888 and 1921 demonstrating a great variety of styles, from lyrical and romantic to powerful and dissonant. It is from this collection that the songs on this disc have been selected.
The New York Times described Pierre-Laurent Aimard as “an extraordinary pianist and major musician” in reviewing the “insightful performances” of his December 2001 Carnegie Hall recital debut, released on CD the following year by Warner Classics.
“Pierre-Laurent Aimard is one of the most questing and open-minded pianists before the public today” (Gramophone)
Susan Graham was named “Vocalist of the Year” by Musical America in December 2003. Her Carnegie Hall recital debut was released by Warner Classics in the autumn of 2003 to ecstatic reviews. It was named one of the best classical CDs of 2003 by The New York Times and was Critics’ Choice in the December 2003 Gramophone : “there is some superb artistry at work here… [Graham’s] pliant, rich-grained mezzo is perfect for these songs… Intelligent singing and a winning charm make Susan Graham’s recital first class.”
“Whatever he plays, Aimard shows a grasp of structure and evolutionary growth that can leave the listener gasping… A guiding intelligence, extraordinary dexterity, beautiful phrasing: this French pianist appears to have it all”. (The Times)
[Graham] “ranks among the most capable, versatile, and altogether winning mezzo-sopranos now before the public. Her voice has power, gravity and luster; her interpretations combine an openhearted, distinctly American directness of expression with a full command of Old World subtleties.” (Washington Post)

BBC Review

The 'Concord' Sonata by Charles Ives may attempt to break the sound barrier, at least in pianistic terms, but the title refers to a time and place in American history long before jet travel. It was written in 1912 as an attempt to present one person's impression of the spirit of the literature, the philosophy, and the men of Concord, Mass. of over a half-century ago.

Concord, Massachusetts, reeks of American history and literature. The site of the battle that began the American Revolution , Concord was also home to some of the most original thinkers and writers of the American literary renaissance: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and novelists Nathaniel Hawthorn and the Alcotts- father Bronson and daughter Louisa May (their home, Orchard House in Concord, was the one described in 'Little Women'). Ives was born in neighbouring Connecticut 8 years before Emerson's death, and shared his transcendentalist philosophy. Each movement of this Sonata bears its own dedication: Emerson, then Hawthorne, The Alcotts and Thoreau.

It's a sprawling symphony of semi-realised ideas, flashes of inspiration, immense toil and flights of philosophical and musical fancy. It's a conceptual collage fraught with intellectual and technical difficulties...which makes Pierre-Laurent Aimard a near-perfect match, a pianist who revels in Ives's ideas and who's equal to the almost insane physical demands of the 'Concord' Sonata.

The essence of the work is this conflict between the loftiness of the ideas, and man's struggle to articulate them. Ive's wanted to set unattainable goals for his pianist; you're supposed to strive for perfection, and there's nothing ignoble about falling short of it. The journey is more important than the destination, so quite what the composer would make of a pianist who seems equal to the challenge, I'm not sure; maybe he'd have raised the bar even higher?

Ives evokes Beethoven's challenge to pianists and listeners a century earlier, quoting the Hammerklavier Sonata in each movement...alongside the nostalgic simplicity of hymn tunes, and snatches of marches and parlour songs. The optional viola and flute parts for the first movement and finale are only a few bars long, and float ethereally into and out of view, like half-remembered memories.

Already this is a strongly recommendable disc, but the icing on the cake is the 17 Ives songs that precede the Sonata: 'a kind of laboratory of ideas' Aimard has called them, sung with unselfconscious American intonation and a rare beauty of tone and line by mezzo Susan Graham. It's as though the 'Concord' Sonata has been broken into its constituent elements to aid our understanding of it, before Aimard reassembles it before our eyes and ears. Ives needs friends like these, and what a result: intelligent programming, breathtaking performances, and a crystal clear recording.

Like This? Try These:

Ives: An American Journey (Thomas Hampson)

James MacMillan: Raising Sparks

Messiaen: Vingts Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus (Steven Osborne) --Andrew McGregor

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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 28 March 2013
Format: Audio CD|Verified Purchase
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 7 January 2005
Format: Audio CD
0Comment| 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Most helpful customer reviews on 4.6 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
5.0 out of 5 starsThe is my favorite recording oif the Concord Soinata.
on 14 June 2016 - Published on
Format: Audio CD|Verified Purchase
4.0 out of 5 starsCharles Ives is no New England conservative
on 16 February 2014 - Published on
Format: Audio CD|Verified Purchase
8 people found this helpful.
5.0 out of 5 starsA European modernist embraces Ives
on 7 January 2007 - Published on
Format: Audio CD
37 people found this helpful.
5.0 out of 5 starsIt takes a Frenchman to capture an American masterpiece!
on 18 May 2004 - Published on
Format: Audio CD
6 people found this helpful.
5.0 out of 5 starsGreat Performances, but the Star of this CD is Charles Ives
on 9 August 2005 - Published on
Format: Audio CD

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