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<<  -- 5 --  David Wilkins    TIME TRAVEL

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The Concord sonata -- 'called a sonata for want of a more exact name,' as Ives put it -- is another vital autobiographical testament. His involvement with the idealism of the New England transcendentalists and their concern for humankind's capacity for self-improvement may indicate a certain naivety in cynical times but the gritty, no-battle-easily-won difficulty of the music suggests a more rugged realism [listen -- track 18 'Emerson', 5:09-6:13]. It is also, for all its implied and hoped-for universality, a deeply American work. Beethoven figures large -- the Hammerklavier sonata references and the unavoidable Fifth Symphony quotes which are linked to, 'the soul of humanity knocking at the door of the divine mysteries, radiant in the faith that it will be opened and the human become the divine.' But there's plenty of Ives' assorted and variously assimilated Americana in the piece -- in spirit when not in quote [listen -- track 19 'Hawthorne', 6:35-7:42].

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, as, I suppose, we should expect but not be less impressed by after his excursions into Debussy, Ligeti and Reich, knows no fear of any technical precipice. Still, and importantly, he makes the triumph over difficulty sound like a worthwhile victory. There's no temptation to a glib response along the lines of, 'Oh, you can do that, can you?' -- but, rather, a humbling (and suitably transatlantic-derived) 'Wow!' -- and, most wonderfully of all, for the composition rather than the execution.

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Copyright © 19 May 2004 David Wilkins, Eastbourne UK

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