A brave pianist
Music by Charles Ives
played by Philip Mead -
reviewed by PETER DICKINSON
'... Mead's technique is consistently impressive.'
Here is a brave pianist supported by a brave record company in recording
yet again the major piano works of Ives in this two-CD set. Unhappily the
original historic recordings by John Kirkpatrick, who worked with Ives,
are no longer available but there is still Gilbert Kalish (Elektra/Nonesuch
9 71337-2); Easley Blackwood (Cedille CDR 90000 005); the
more recently acclaimed Alexei Lubimov (Erato 0630-1-14638-2); and
But Mead has been associated with Ives for many years -- he played the
Concord Sonata for the first time in 1975 -- so these are seasoned
interpretations. The first impression of the Concord, with each of
its four movements based on a New England writer, is that the piano sounds
metallic and rather close, especially in loud passages. Luckily I read the
CD booklet where the producer, David Lefeber, explains:
- The piano used in this recording is a Steinway model C, rather than
the more commonly used and larger-sounding model D. The aim was to produce
an 'older' instrumental sound, more akin to the piano sound Ives would
have been used to. The recorded acoustic environment too is meant to complement
Philip Mead's performance intention. It is hoped that a sense of 'age'
is achieved through avoiding the 'over-produced' recorded piano sound we
normally hear on commercial recordings ...
We must be grateful that Lefeber did not plan to use Ives' own upright
piano, which I have seen in his house at Redding, Connecticut. I am sure
it would have sounded appalling! But one can see what he means.
Copyright © 22 January 2003
Peter Dickinson, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK