Ives: Piano Sonata No. 2 (Concord); Three Quarter-Tone Pieces for Two Pianos

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WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 2 (Concord); Three Quarter-Tone Pieces for Two Pianos
PERFORMER: Alexei Lubimov, Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-14638-2
The problem with performing the transcendental Concord Sonata is to find the right balance between, on the one hand, excitement and spontaneity – so evidently intended in Ives’s torrents of notes, of which there is anyway no definitive version – and, on the other, sufficient care and clarity to demonstrate that those notes are not just random. Sensitivity to harmonic tension and contrapuntal details, as well as textural contrasts, can only enhance the composer’s vision.


Alexei Lubimov not only understands these issues but has the technique to put them into practice. The result rivals the very best on disc. Of some eight current versions, Marc-André Hamelin (on New World Records) offers a comparable physical and intellectual grasp. Lubimov revels in the greater clarity of a recording made at IRCAM in Paris to give us more of the details. In the process, he gets even closer to the Ivesian spirit. His ‘Hawthorne’ movement, for example – an amalgam of Impressionism, band music and much else – is longer than Hamelin’s, yet has more volatility as well as atmosphere. Unlike Hamelin, Lubimov includes the brief ‘ad lib’ parts for viola and flute. The Quarter-Tone Pieces sound as peculiar now as they must have done when written over seventy years ago. Keith Potter