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A brave pianist

Music by Charles Ives
played by Philip Mead -

'... Mead's technique is consistently impressive.'

Varied Air - Charles Ives © 2002 Metier Sound and Vision

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 more.

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.

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Copyright © 22 January 2003 Peter Dickinson, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK


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