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The studies are not as familiar or as frequently recorded as the two sonatas, although the Ives veteran Alan Mandel has covered most of them. The numbering is confusing since some were never completed. However, those that survive are vintage Ives and -- in typical Ives fashion -- they often contain references to other pieces and other composers. Thus Study No 22 includes 'Hello my Baby', the 1899 Howard and Emerson ragtime hit-song which appears prominently in Central Park in the Dark. Here's the passage leading up to it and then the syncopated pop song itself. Nobody but Ives could have written this [listen -- CD2 track 11, 0:59:1:59].

Philip Mead's recording finishes with the Five Take-Offs, again vintage Ives and the least familiar music on these two CDs. No 2, called Rough and Ready, is most certainly that. It's another example of how Ives associated dissonance and technical demands with masculinity, overcoming challenges, and prowess on the baseball field. As usual Mead rises to the occasion with formidable command. However, to end this review, I think we should move away from the energetic questing Ives and hear a moment of tranquil repose. This is the third Take-Off called 'Song Without (Good) Words'. It's an oasis of calm, a mood beautifully caught here, and it comes close to the end of a thoroughly enterprising collection of Ives' piano works, which is especially valuable for the shorter pieces [listen -- CD2 track 14, 0:00-1:12].

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

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Varied Air - Charles Ives - the piano music

MSV CD92037 (a+b) DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE (2 CDs) 64'32"/68'44" - TT 133'16" 2002 David Lefeber, Metier Sound & Vision

Philip Mead, piano

Piano Sonata No 2 (1911-1912); Three-Page Sonata (1905); Study No 2 - Varied Air and Variations (c1923); Study No 9 - The Anti-Abolitionist Riots in the 1830s and 1840s (c1908-1909); Waltz-Rondo (c1911); Piano Sonata No 1 (1902-1910); Study No 20 (c1908); Study No 21 - Some South-Paw Pitching! (c1909); Study No 22 (c1909); Study No 23 - Baseball Take-Off (c1909); Five Take-Offs (1906-1907)

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