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Charles IVES (1874-1954)
Works for Piano, Volume 1. Piano Sonata No. 2, 'Concord, Mass.' (1910-1915) [44'45]; Three-Page Sonata (1905) [7'11]; Waltz-Rondo (1911) [5'31]; Varied Air and Variations (1923?) [5'51].
Ciro Longobardi (piano)
rec. Milan, March 2004. DDD

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Good to know this is 'Volume 1'. Ciro Longobardi - a name new to me - has good credentials for this repertoire. He participated in masterclasses with Bernhard Wambach in Darmstadt and Parma, for one thing. Wambach's Stockhausen interpretation is magnificent.

Longobardi's view of Ives is a balanced one. He is as aware of the Romantic side as of the modernist, and delicacy is frequently present. All of this can be heard in the 'Emerson' movement of the Second Sonata. The fact that not only does he work well towards a climax, but also that he doesn't bang when he gets there; more tempting in Ives than in most, I would suspect! Because of all this, the end of 'Emerson' hangs magically in the air.

Interestingly, parts of 'Hawthorne' sound very close to Nancarrow, enabling the long chorale around five minutes in to have a huge emotive effect, simultaneously calming and disconcerting. This movement is an emotional roller-coaster because of Ives' daring juxtapositions of material, and it is superbly realised by Longobardi. If there is a distinct homely feel to 'The Alcotts' - and very lovely it is - it is the peaceful, hypnotic 'Thoreau' that will surely linger long in the memory. The enjoyment of the Sonata is enhanced, as are all the works on this lovely disc, by the superb piano recording, clear and accurate.

The famous Three-Page Sonata emphasises the work's contrasts. Slow passages can be like cut-crystal; yet the March verges on the outrageous; as, indeed, is correct. The lovely end is wonderfully realised. Nice to have the Waltz-Rondo of 1911. If the title implies a certain duality, Ives' writing positively implies schizophrenia! Similarly, Longobardi revels in the quirky Varied Air and Variations, with its Webernesque twists. He clearly enjoys every second and so should we.

A very interesting, and well-presented disc. The booklet notes are at times a trifle clumsily translated from the Italian, but that should not be enough to deter anyone. I hope to hear more from Ciro Longobardi.

Colin Clarke


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