Collection: Made in America

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bernstein,Gershwin,Ives,Kirchner
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Clarinet Sonata (transcribed for cello & piano); Three Preludes (transcribed for cello & piano); Trio for Violin, Cello & Piano: Triptych
PERFORMER: Ronan Lefkowitz (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gilbert Kalish (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 53126 DDD

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These two fascinating discs serve to illustrate the fantastic diversity of styles that are so characteristic of American 20th-century music. Yo-Yo Ma’s compilation is the more obviously eclectic, encompassing both the popular idiom of Gershwin as well as the Schoenberg-inspired intellectualism of Kirchner. The performances are typically full-blooded with Ma making out a very convincing case for his arrangement of Bernstein’s early and somewhat Hindemithian Clarinet Sonata.

Only the Gershwin proves disappointing for, in comparison with Heifetz’s legendary recording, Ma’s rendition lacks panache and technical sophistication. Undoubtedly, the major item on both discs is the Ives Piano Trio of 1904, an astounding work whose audacity of invention still manages to shock listeners who are well versed in the musical complexities of the postwar avant-garde. Both recordings have their merits, though Ma and his colleagues embrace a wider emotional range than the Hartley Trio, adopting a far more deliberate (some might say indulgent) tempo for the final slow movement.

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Yet those who are more attracted to the Hartley Trio’s programme should not be put off by their relative restraint in the Ives, for they show themselves to be perfectly capable of exuberant playing, as in the wild central dance of Copland’s Vitebsk and Bloch’s tempestuous third Nocturne. Erik Levi