Friday, January 14, 2011

Ah, now that's more like it

Received my copy of Donna Coleman's performance of the Concord Sonata in the mail today and have been listening to it for the last hour. I won't compare it favorably to other recordings — we are all involved in the common Ives project, and therefore all on the same side — but I will say I like very much the clarity of Coleman's playing, which keeps the themes in the forefront no matter how thick the textures get. I also like the way she distinguishes between passages of differing mood, sometimes simply with a long pause. There's a song-like quality to the playing, particularly in the Alcotts movement, when in a few spots Coleman seems to take on the role of Bronson Alcott's daughter Beth, idly picking out tunes for her own amusement on the "little old spinet-piano Sophia Thoreau gave to the Alcott children," as Ives describes the scene in his Essays Before a Sonata.

This is an insightful performance that tells a story, as opposed to making a big noise, and it made me remember why I care about this music. If you're in the mood to acquire yet another recording of the Concord, I would recommend it.

The CD also includes fine readings of the Three Page Sonata and the rarely heard Emerson Transcriptions, brief, muscular distillations of material from the Concord Sonatas first movement. As Coleman says in the booklet, Ives couldn't leave this music alone.


Nina Deutsch said...

It is important to realize that Ives wrote variations on " What a friend we have in Jesus ", the world famous gospel hymn,in the First Sonata. At the core of Charles Ives was his concern for moral values, "tolerance, teaching children to be kind to one another", and the greater values he made a tribute to in his Concord Sonata. People need Ives' music. We live in a time of turmoil.
Nina Deutsch

Joe Barron said...

Nina - thanks for the comment