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Charles IVES

Violin Sonata No. 4 (1936) [10.26]

Violin Sonata (1942-43) [18.17]

Violin Sonata No. 2 (1973) [19.67]

Sonata Concertante (1952) [19.35]
Ives and Copland: Jaime Laredo (violin) Ann Schein (piano)
Lees: Rafael Druian (violin) Ilse von Alpenheim (piano)
Kirchner: Jaime Laredo (violin) Ruth Laredo (piano)
PHOENIX PHCD 136  [68.20]

The Ives Sonata (the shortest of the four) is one of his most probingly exploratory. It slips and slides as if memories were focusing and blurring all the time. If you known the first and second symphonies expect something else - not exactly intimidating just rather leading edge. It echoes with strained memories of children's summer camp meetings in the 1870s-1890s. It has its moments of ecstasy as in the largo - a swelteringly soporific version of 'Yes, Jesus Loves You' - Delian in its irresistible decay.

The Copland Sonata was written in the depths of the Second World War. The violin shrills and badgers in Bartokian spikes and judders - invading the listener's space in a way quite absent from the rather lovely Ives item. Laredo is as poised as he is in the Ives but the lapel-grabbing proximity can be too much. As for the music it does not have enduring 'imprint' of the Ives. The familiar Copland (Appalachian Spring and The Tender Land) can be heard in the blissful recurring piano chords first encountered at the opening.

The noted Concertmaster, Rafael Druian (accompanied by the widow of the late Antal Dorati) takes the bow for the Lees (last encountered by me when reviewing his Memorial Candles symphony on Naxos American Classics). The sonata gives the impression of being on the hunt. Ferocity and angularity rather than the singing virtues are what predominate.

Kirchner was born of Russian parents in Brooklyn in 1919. His single movement work is about the same length as the Copland and Lees. We return to Laredo (in fact both Laredos) in the tough Sonata Concertante. This was commissioned by the Fromm Foundation and premiered by Tossy Spivakovsky (who made excellent recordings of the concertos by Sibelius, Leroy Robertson and Menotti - pity we don't have more by him!). The work is hard-going: Schoenbergian - dissonant and atonal - brilliant, certainly, but difficult to love and not inviting a quick return to the CD player. It is ideal CD material.

Phoenix can be annoyingly silent about the provenance and discographical information. There are no dates or locales given for these recordings. The liner notes are helpful and most supportive.

In summary: Lees and Kirchner - uncompromising; Copland by no means easy of approach and the Ives a work of concise and dissonant dreaminess. With the exception of the Ives (a discovery for me) I did not find the music welcoming. Others with stiffer sinews and endurance will warm to a generous roster of works, well (if often rather closely) recorded.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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