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Ives: Four Sonatas

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 11, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Charles Ives's idiom is in Hilary Hahn's American blood - which her fierce and fitting playing shows. Her partnership with pianist Valentina Lisitsa models what two singular artists can accomplish in the interests of a common cause. Quirky, peculiar, rich with Charles Ives's idiosyncratic notion of melody, peppered with dissonance yet also logical - Ives's works for violin and piano turn familiar musical expressions upside down. They are an alternate universe of aesthetic pleasure.

From the Artist

This disc contains all four of Ives's sonatas for violin and piano. The First Sonata is relatively conservative: dense but mostly tonal. The Second Sonata is split into three movements, each carrying an affective name: "Autumn","In the Barn", and "The Revival". The next sonata aims to "express the feeling and fervor - a fervor that was often more vociferous than religious - with which the hymns and revival tunes were sung at the Camp Meetings held extensively in New England in the 70's and 80's." The final sonata is lighter in mood and smaller in scope than the other three pieces.
  • Sample this album Artist (Sample)
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7
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Product Details

  • Composer: Charles Edward Ives
  • Audio CD (October 11, 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B005DWX9YO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,702 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Fisher TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 12, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I was eagerly awaiting this album from Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa, and it has certainly proven to be worth the wait. These are wonderful performances of Charles Ives' violin sonatas.

In advance of this release, in recent weeks I have been listening quite a bit to the great performances of these same works by Curt Thompson and Rodney Waters on the Naxos American label. While both discs are outstanding, I do somewhat prefer these new interpretations by Hahn and Lisitsa. It is an overgeneralization, so take it with a big grain of salt -- but I'll still say the Thompson/Waters performances bring out more of the darker beauty of these sonatas, while Hahn and Lisitsa bring out more of the light and lyricism. I hate to use the "a" word, but these are surely some of the more accessible performances of the Ives violin sonatas available.

This is apparent from the first strains of the album, when the first notes of the first movement of Sonata No. 1 are played with a flowing grace, rather than the clipped brooding I had been accustomed to. Or in the second movement of Sonata No. 2 -- Ives' mash-up of "Turkey in the Straw" and "The Battle Cry of Freedom" -- which takes on more of the feeling of a playful romp. And I really loved the performance of Sonata No. 3, which is my favorite of the lot.

Tempos are brisk. In fact, looking through the four sets of the complete Ives sonatas available on Amazon's MP3 site, these Hahn/Lisitsa recordings have significantly shorter total runtimes than almost any sets of the sonatas out there. This is also true for most individual movements of most of the sonatas.

These performances won me over.
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Format: Audio CD
Five BRILLIANT Stars. Three outstanding musical talents in a singular exhilarating encounter. This recording has two classical music superstars, American violin virtuoso Hilary Hahn and Ukrainian-born piano virtuoso Valentina Lisitsa, playing four beautifully evocative and challenging sonatas by America's genius modernist composer Charles Ives (1874-1954). The Pulitzer Prize-winning Ives' idiosyncratic music is an amazing vortex of classical, spiritual, and folk influences blending with early 20th Century Americana into his own unique timeless musical vision. Hilary notes the initial difficulty they had in deciphering Ives' detailed, demanding notations, which makes the wonderful flow of these recorded pieces all the more appreciated. Then they took these sonatas on a well-received world tour over two musical seasons before going into the studio: this enjoyable recording is the outcome of that remarkable, evolving musical experience. These are musical marvels with the ladies playing wonderfully, individually and collectively, with fire and emotion. The 'best of the best' begins with the brilliantly-played Sonata for Violin and Piano No 1, especially the amazing mercurial 8 minute Allegro movement which sounds avant garde with 2 divergent juxtaposed lines amid florid conventional beauty. In the Sonata for Violin and Piano No 2, Ives' "Autumn" luminously captures the season, "In The Barn" has sprightly country-dance figurations and "turkey in the straw" allusions, and the calm of "The Revival" movement ultimately is whipped into a frenzy and then calmness, all in just over 3 minutes. Sonata No 3 starts with the remarkable 12 minute Adagio, double versed into Andante & Allegretto sub-movements with "Shenandoah" quotes throughout the movements.Read more ›
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The title of my review refers to Hahn/Lisitsa's interpretation, not to the beautiful Ives Sonatas themselves! I would definitely go with Thompson/Waters in this repertoire. Or if you like you could get both, just to experience how different two interpretations can be. Normally I am a huge fan of Hahn, but not in this one.

(1) How the instruments sound. My problems with this disk began in the first few measures, given Hahn's unrelentingly fast and wide vibrato. In my opinion a vibrato may be fast, or it may be wide, but it should better not be both (Thompson's is wide, but not fast - it is simply lovely.) As for the piano, Lisitsa turns it into a hammer-fist, while Waters is rich and deep without Lisitsa's aggressive sound.

(2) How the instruments balance. Many reviewers, even those who like this disk, feel that the piano overbalances the violin (this is true of their live performances as well, so it is not just an engineering problem.) With Hahn and Lisitsa, depending on where they are in the score, either you're going to hear Hahn sawing away in the foreground and Lisitsa noodling in the background, or more often Lisitsa, herself, pounding away in the foreground. by contrast Thompson/Waters is delicately, subtly, and dramatically balanced.

(3) How the interpretations go. Hahn/Lisitsa is, as noted above, unrelenting and fast. It drives from beginning to end without any relief, or even the slightest air between the notes or phrases. Thompson/Walters are the opposite in every way - relaxed, generous, beautiful, loveable, and even, I truly think, sublime.
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