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  • Jeremy Denk Plays Ives
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Jeremy Denk Plays Ives CD, Classical

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Audio CD, CD, Classical, October 12, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Jeremy Denk's long-awaited CD of the Piano Sonatas of Charles Ives. With accompanying 24-page booklet notes written by Denk "that remind us why the Washington Post's Joan Reinthaler found Denk's "the most interesting and well-written program notes [she had] ever read." Denk's recital programs have long featured not only Ives's famous and monumental "Concord" Sonata but also the far less familiar Sonata No. 1, impressing critics with "thrilling performances" (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times) that offer "an entire world" (Anne Midgette, Washington Post). "Ives wants to recreate the raw experience of music-making, something unfiltered, and beyond all your piano lessons... . While driving me crazy, he reminds me why I play the piano at all." - Jeremy Denk

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 12, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD, Classical
  • Label: Think Denk Media
  • Run Time: 74 minutes
  • ASIN: B00465QYS2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,911 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 26, 2010
Format: Audio CD

I've been waiting for Jeremy to record these sonatas ever since we took a musicology class on Charles Ives from the inimitable J. Peter Burkholder together at IU almost 20 years ago! Even back then, it was clear that Jeremy had a special insight into Ives and that he could really do justice to these incredibly complex and beautiful pieces.

This recording satisfies on many levels. Jeremy expresses the over-the-top exuberance and almost inexpressible density of Ives' ideas with full gusto, and then drops instantly into the most tender and beautiful expressions of the nostalgia and referential memory of Ives. In listening to this recording, I heard things I'd never heard before, particularly the clear references to all of the tunes that make up Ives' world--it seems like Jeremy "gets" and honors each and every one of them, when many pianists get the major ones but lose many of the shorter or more hidden ones in the overall soundscape.

Perhaps even more satisfying is the way that Jeremy is so pianistic--he plays this so beautifully as a piece of music, not as a study in Ives. It IS a study in Ives, but I find myself absorbed in the beauty of the piano playing, too.

And the program notes are wonderful, showing Jeremy's mastery of these works on an intellectual and musical level, and making Ives interesting, accessible and relevant.

Bravo!! Buy this CD, whether or not you are a fan of Ives. You won't regret it, and whether or not you like or know Ives, you will find yourself discovering 2 amazing pieces of music, either newly, or through rejuvenated ears.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By John Wegner on October 13, 2010
Format: Audio CD
This album from one of the best players and writers in American classical music impresses me on so many fronts. He is, above all, a masterful pianist. Never have these pieces sounded so approachable, so clear, so exciting and so alive. You can really hear the influences of the French Impressionists like Debussy and Ravel, as well as some good old American blues and folk tunes. Denk's playing is note perfect but never at the expense of soul. And for those who are fans of Beethoven's Fifth (or who really hate it!), Ives's ir/reverent deconstruction of the "da da da dum" theme in the Concord Sonata is both funny and moving.

For those who know him from his blog Think Denk, there are, as you might expect and hope for, pages upon pages of insightful booklet notes written by Denk that help demystify that great American mystic, Charles Ives, for those who (like me) find him fascinating, but sometimes a little... well... mystifying! Also has a great essay all about the Beethoven's Fifth / Concord Sonata connection.

Both through his playing and his writing, this is a masterpiece, really worth it to get the CD as you get the booklet though it is also an MP3 - Alcotts is the most beautiful track - maybe a good place to start.
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Joe Barron on January 7, 2011
Format: Audio CD
Jeremy Denk has become perhaps our most visible and articulate champion of the music of Charles Ives, which is all to the good. I very much enjoyed his performance, with Soovin Kim, of the composer's four violin sonatas in Philadelphia a few years ago, and so, when I heard he had recorded the two piano sonatas, I was excited. I asked for and received the CD for Christmas, and having listened to it, I have to say it's a disappointment. A big one. I have almost a dozen recordings of the Concord, fewer of the First Sonata, and Denk has not replaced any of them in my affections. He seems to think Ives is an American Liszt (as if we needed one), and he goes in for romantic bombast, banging away in the forte sections while smoothing over the mood shifts and jokes with lots of pedal. The result is aggressive in a way that is often mistaken for Ivesian, but it's also homogenized. The Emerson movement suffers in particular, losing much of its grandeur. The Thoreau movement, by contrast, is overly misty, like a parody of Debussy. (The flute at the end is so distant and washed out that its entrance makes hardly any impression at all.) Ives's famous wit has been suppressed, too, and his homespun elements lack flavor: the hymns aren't very hymnlike, the rags aren't very raggy, and you can't march to the marches. And for the very first time in my life, the First Sonata left me with a headache. This is Ives for people who would rather be listening to something else. (One blogger wrote of this CD, "You don't get many reminders that Ives was a contemporary of Rachmaninoff and Busoni." No, you don't - and a good thing, too.) Give Denk credit, though. He's managed to do something no other performer has ever done: he made me question whether I have been wrong about the value of Ives's music for so many years.Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By steve on September 16, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is one of the best Ives discs I've heard. Denk somehow makes Ives often "difficult" music comprehensible without smoothing out any of the rough edges. His exceptional liner notes also greatly enhance the experience of listening to this music, pointing out things to listen for and making some very helpful comments about the overall structure of the pieces. I was already a fan of the Concord Sonata, but Denk's playing and writing have sort of unlocked aspects of the work (in the Emerson and Hawthorne sections, especially) that had eluded me. Comparing different interpretations of this music is another way to gain a deeper appreciation, and for this I recommend Marc-Andre Hamelin's recording on Hyperion Ives: Concord Sonata; Barber: Piano Sonata (I haven't heard his earlier version).
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