Joonas Ahonen, Pekka Kuusisto - Charles Ives: Piano Sonata No.2 'Concord' & Violin Sonata No.4 (2017)

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Joonas Ahonen, Pekka Kuusisto - Charles Ives: Piano Sonata No.2 'Concord' & Violin Sonata No.4 (2017)

Charles Ives - Piano Sonata No.2 & Violin Sonata No.4 (2017)
'Concord' & 'Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting'
Joonas Ahonen (piano) & Pekka Kuusisto (violin)

EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 199 Mb | Artwork included
Classical | Label: BIS | # BIS-2249 SACD | Time: 00:58:55

Charles Ives’s ‘Concord Sonata’ is often described as one of the greatest of American piano works. Published in 1920, at the composer’s own expense, it contains radical experiments in harmony and rhythm and would have to wait until 1939 for its first public performance. In the course of its four movements, Ives depicts some of the famous inhabitants of the small town of Concord in Massachusetts, a centre of the mid-19th century transcendentalism movement. Luminaries of the movement such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are alluded to in various ways in music that includes references to Beethoven, religious and patriotic hymns and circus marches, as well as brief ‘guest appearances’ by a viola and a flute.

Lasting 47 minutes on the present recording, Ives’s second piano sonata is a massive work of a staggering complexity, and a true challenge for any performer – a challenge more than readily accepted by the young Finnish pianist Joonas Ahonen, who has previously recorded Ligeti’s piano concerto for BIS.

For the opening work on the disc, the much shorter Violin Sonata No. 4, Ahonen is joined by his compatriot, the celebrated violinist Pekka Kuusisto. Composed during the same period as the Concord Sonata, this piece also has an extra-musical background, namely the composer’s memories as a child of the so-called camp meetings held during the Christian revivalism of the late 19th century.

As with his account of Ligeti’s Piano Concerto (4/17), Joonas Ahonen’s formidable pianism is much in evidence. He coaxes a formal clarity from the seething prolixity of ‘Emerson’ and evinces deft humour in the increasingly reckless abandon of ‘Hawthorne’. Yet his underlying impersonality rather detracts from the fervency of ‘The Alcotts’, while his take on ‘Thoreau’ has a limpidity but also coolness that makes this most inward of finales seem aloof rather than otherworldly. The outcome is a reading which appreciates the extent of Ives’s transcendental musings in no small measure but is less attentive to its corresponding emotional depths. On the plus side, the brief viola and more substantial flute interpolations are affectingly rendered.

The coupling, too, is teasingly provocative. Composed just before his most intensive work on the Concord, the Fourth Violin Sonata finds Ives at his most personable and disarming, what began as a piece for his nephew merging with his love for New England hymn tunes in music whose modest duration belies a profundity comparable to that found in equivalent works of Ravel. Pekka Kuusisto and Ahonen recognise this with an account as poised as it is probing.

Both Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s bolder projection and Alexei Lubimov’s idiosyncratic though absorbing exploration convey more of the Concord’s expressive essence, while Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa place the violin sonata in a more orthodox yet no less fitting context as part of their distinguished traversal of all four sonatas. Those attracted by this coupling, finely recorded and informatively annotated, can be assured the rewards outweigh the reservations.

Review by Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone


Joonas Ahonen, Pekka Kuusisto - Charles Ives: Piano Sonata No.2 'Concord' & Violin Sonata No.4 (2017)



Joonas Ahonen (piano)
Pekka Kuusisto (violin & viola)
Sharon Bezaly (flute) (track 07)
Recorded: June-July 2016
Recording Venue: Sellosali, Espoo, Finland


Tracklist:

Sonata No.4 'Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting'
for violin and piano (1911-16)
01. I. Allegro (2:19)
02. II. Largo (7:16)
03. III. Allegro (1:48)

Sonata No.2 'Concord, Mass., 1840–60'
for piano with optional viola and flute (1916-19)
04. I. Emerson (16:29)
05. II. Hawthorne (12:02)
06. III. The Alcotts (5:52)
07. IV. Thoreau (13:10)


Exact Audio Copy V1.3 from 2. September 2016

EAC extraction logfile from 8. November 2017, 21:58

Joonas Ahonen, Pekka Kuusisto / Ives - Concord Sonata; Violin Sonata No.4

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7 | 45:44.70 | 13:09.59 | 205870 | 265103


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Track 2 not present in database
Track 3 not present in database
Track 4 not present in database
Track 5 not present in database
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Track 7 not present in database

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foobar2000 1.2 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2017-11-15 03:54:12

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Analyzed: Joonas Ahonen, Pekka Kuusisto / Ives - Concord Sonata; Violin Sonata No.4 (1-4)
Joonas Ahonen, Sharon Bezaly / Ives - Concord Sonata; Violin Sonata No.4 (5)
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
DR11 -3.38 dB -19.61 dB 2:19 01-Violin Sonata No.4 'Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting' - I. Allegro
DR16 -0.45 dB -26.13 dB 7:16 02-Violin Sonata No.4 'Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting' - II. Largo
DR13 -1.27 dB -21.40 dB 1:48 03-Violin Sonata No.4 'Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting' - III. Allegro
DR14 -1.26 dB -22.35 dB 16:29 04-Sonata No.2 'Concord, Mass., 1840–60' - I. Emerson
DR16 -4.05 dB -28.66 dB 13:10 07-Sonata No.2 'Concord, Mass., 1840–60' - IV. Thoreau
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Number of tracks: 5
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Bitrate: 452 kbps
Codec: FLAC
================================================================================

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Analyzed: Joonas Ahonen / Ives - Concord Sonata; Violin Sonata No.4
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DR Peak RMS Duration Track
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DR15 -0.32 dB -20.39 dB 12:02 05-Sonata No.2 'Concord, Mass., 1840–60' - II. Hawthorne
DR15 -1.64 dB -23.71 dB 5:52 06-Sonata No.2 'Concord, Mass., 1840–60' - III. The Alcotts
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Number of tracks: 2
Official DR value: DR15

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 452 kbps
Codec: FLAC
================================================================================

Joonas Ahonen, Pekka Kuusisto - Charles Ives: Piano Sonata No.2 'Concord' & Violin Sonata No.4 (2017)