JWR Articles: CD - Ives: Works for Violin and Piano (Featured performer: Jasper Wood) - December 29, 2006
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Ives: Works for Violin and Piano

4 4

So close to greatness

The music of Charles Ives has baffled, beguiled and bewildered performers and audiences alike ever since the brilliant insurance salesman put pen to staff. In this survey of the music for violin and piano (and voice via Mathew Fuerst’s first-rate transcriptions) Jasper Wood and David Riley have done a great, if at times uneven, service to the still-evolving admiration and acceptance of, arguably, America’s most creative composer. Surprisingly, the two sonatas take a back seat to the songs and single-movement works. In the opening 4th, “Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting,” it takes some time for the music to settle. More fun, less angst would be truer to the intent; a childlike wink rather than an adult stare-down (and a much less reverberant piano rendering) would improve the result. In the 3rd, with its truly wonderful echo via accompanying “harp” arpeggios of Brahms’ Vier Gesänge für Frauenchor, the underpinnings are faithfully reproduced, yet the arcs of the phrases need to be extended. The challenge with Ives is not to fall into the too-studied trap and escape the apparent confines of the bar lines. It falls to “Decoration Day,” with its brilliantly proportioned “bringing in the weaves” to fully reveal the talent and artistry of the Wood and Riley. But it’s the world première recording of the songs that lift this album from “good work” to “must have.” Exquisite control allows the Schubertian comfort and joy to permeate “Night of Frost in May.” Real passion convincingly floats the “En bateau” of “Eyes so Dark.” “Kären’s” helpings of Schumann and Brahms combine for a truly scrumptious sweet nothing. “In Summer Fields” rolls along tonality’s lane with romantic ease even as a morsel of “O Holy Night” lurks intriguingly in the melodic weeds. The discreet changes, impassioned declamations and polished pizzicati push “Rosamunde” to the top. “Omens and Oracles” benefits mightily from the pair’s rhapsodic push and pull. The “simple” reflection found in every breath of “Berceuse” bids a fond “adieu” to this remarkable collection. JWR

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Composer - Charles Ives
Featured performer - Jasper Wood
Transcription - Mathew Fuerst
Piano - David Riley
Repertoire:
Sonata No. 4 for Violin and Piano (“Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting,” S.63) I. Allegro; II. Largo; III. Allegro
Decoration Day, S.64
Largo for violin & piano
Sonata No. 3 for Violin and Piano, S.62 I. Adagio; II. Allegro; III. Adagio (Cantabile)
Songs: From “Night of Frost in May” (S.309)  Weil’ Auf Mir (“Eyes So Dark,” S.250); Kären    Feldeinsamkeit (“In Summer Fields,” S250); Rosamunde (S.337)  Omens and Oracles (S.317); Berceuse (S.220)
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