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<<  -- 4 --  David Wilkins    TIME TRAVEL

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The Housatonic at Stockbridge recollects an emotional moment with Charles' wonderfully named wife, Harmony Twichell Ives, with musical material familiar from the orchestral Three Places in New England. 'If I've ever done anything good in music,' he wrote, 'it was, first, because of my father and second, because of my wife.' There is a genuine partnership between singer and pianist here -- what astonishing ability Aimard has to float his complex accompaniment gently, then disturbingly, by. He conjures the 'deep current' and the 'restive ripple' while never denying the validity of the 'Contented river'! Man in Nature is, as so often, the theme, and Susan Graham's capture of the somewhat guilty interposing of fallible human restlessness on the inevitability of the natural order is in perfect keeping with the composer's hijacking of the river as a metaphor for his beloved new wife [listen -- track 2, 2:52-3:48].

There's also fun aplenty in the selection of songs gathered here. The first part of Memories is a hoot as well as being a triumph of articulation. I still love the inflection of Roberta Alexander (on the Etcetera label) in this song -- but Susan Graham is effortless in comparison, maybe a little too much so and, therefore, a trifle arch [listen -- track 4, 0:00-1:02]. The Circus Band finds Aimard in a virtuoso mode that might be construed as 'warming-up' for the demands of the Concord sonata and Graham getting close (but not, for my taste, close enough) to toying with the idea of what this song might have sounded like emerging from an Ethel Merman throat [listen -- track 9, 1:36-2:16]!

If you could have any seventeen Ives songs, chances are that many of these should be on your list. What a tantalising treat, though, is the chance to explore some of the others.

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Copyright © 19 May 2004 David Wilkins, Eastbourne UK

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