Charles IVES (1874-1954)
Complete Works for Violin and Piano.
Pre-First Violin Sonata. Largo. Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-4.
Nobu Wakabayashi (violin);
Thomas Wise (piano).
Arte Nova 74321 75495-2
(two discs] [DDD]
This is a double CD of the complete works for violin & piano including
the so-called Pre-First sonata of c.1901 from the composer's college days;
two movements of it, which were discarded by Charles Ives as 'not good enough'
originally, are given here notwithstanding. The chronology of the main four
sonatas is a little confusing, but set out by Thomas Wise. The first comes
from 1903 & 1908, embodying music recalled from holiday gatherings, with
tunes & hymns from Camp Meetings; the second sonata (no dates supplied,
but it was 1902-10) has a tipsy, riotous hoe-down and an open air church
service. The third was completed in 1914, but has material from 1902-04,
the first movement a magnified hymn, the second based on 'old ragtime stuff'.
The fourth (1916) was intended for a 12-yr. old to play but got out of hand
- the boy could not manage the last two movements, 'neither could his teacher'!
As common with Ives, the material includes hymns and marching songs.
There is a refreshing unpredictability about this music and an early LP of
them in my collection, by Paul Zukofsky & Gilbert Kalish, was
for long one of my favourites, especially their unbuttoned way with some
of the wilder music of the second sonata. This new recording seems to me
far too dour and serious, not capturing the iconoclastic fun of them at all.
Nobu Wakabayashi is an earnest violinist, but her tone is often unbeautiful
and she lacks flair. The accompaniments are inclined to be heavy and not
well differentiated and the whole seems to be an example of the vice of putting
down an integrale for the sake of it, without any real sympathy
for the music. I have not had an opportunity to assess the several CD versions
available, but I have played again my LPs of the Zukofsky/Kalish (Nonesuch
HB-73025) and found it even better than remembered. This is the real thing;
if it were to be re-issued, it would be hard to beat. The elegant black &
gold LP packaging, with extensive notes, are a reminder of how much we have
lost with the constraints of the jewel case, and the experience of this
comparison is a warning not to lightly relegate your LPs to the attic!
Peter Grahame Woolf
See also review by Colin Clarke