Ives: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2 (Concord); Three-Page Sonata; Study No. 2; Study No. 9; Study No. 20; Study No. 21; Study No. 22; Study No. 23; Five Take-Offs; Waltz-Rondo

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COMPOSERS: Ives
LABELS: Metier
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2 (Concord); Three-Page Sonata; Study No. 2; Study No. 9; Study No. 20; Study No. 21; Study No. 22; Study No. 23; Five Take-Offs; Waltz-Rondo
PERFORMER: Philip Mead (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MSV CD 92037
This is a most desirable disc. Even more than his orchestral works or songs, the piano works of Charles Ives demonstrate the extraordinary and compelling originality of a composer who was truly ahead of his time. For instance, not allowing convention or practicality to constrict his creativity in the Piano Sonata No. 2 (‘Concord, Mass., 1840-1860’), Ives includes a part for flute and a couple of bars for viola as well as large clusters to be played by a board. Such an approach seems more akin to experimental works of the Sixties rather than a piece completed in 1912.

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Although not a complete survey, these two discs contain just about all of Ives’s best-known and most significant works for piano. Philip Mead has a long association with this music and these are clearly settled and considered interpretations. Not that he is to be found wanting for any sense of spontaneity, his account of Study No. 21, ‘Some South-Paw Pitching!’ typifying a wonderful ebullience. The production, using a smaller piano and deliberately cultivating an ‘older’ sound, is typical of the imaginative approach of both Mead and Metier. Competition in this repertoire is astonishingly scant, but even with a packed field, Mead would be hard to beat. Christopher Dingle