Ives: Works for violin & piano (complete)

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LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Works for violin & piano (complete)
PERFORMER: Nobu Wakabayashi (violin), Thomas Wise (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 75495 2
Charles Ives’s violin sonatas are quite unlike anything else which was being written in the early years of the 20th century. They are an astonishing synthesis of the idiom of Dvorák and his American followers, the Revivalist hymns and ragtime tunes which surrounded the composer in his school and college years, and the inquiring cast of mind of a stubborn individualist determined not to pander to the taste of the time. The Japanese-American team of Wakabayashi and Wise play all four sonatas, together with the Largo which Ives salvaged from a ‘Pre-First Sonata’, and the finale of the same work, newly edited from his manuscript. Both players are fully equal to Ives’s technical and musical demands. Wakabayashi may sometimes lack a little breadth and variety of tone in the more muscular passages (or she may not always have been well served by the WDR Cologne recordings, clear and sympathetic though they generally are). But there are moments of quiet epiphany which she and Wise bring off with breathtaking intensity and beauty of sound. And, make no mistake, this is real music, not paper experimentation: inventive, communicative, life-enhancing. If you have yet to discover Ives, take advantage of Arte Nova’s bargain price, and start here. Anthony Burton