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CD Review

Charles Ives

A Song – For Anything

Art Songs - Lieder, Songs of the Period,
and Pop Songs in the Modern Idiom
Gerald Finley, baritone
Julius Drake, piano
Hyperion CDA67516 78m DDD
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For those who consider Charles Ives as a composer of extremely dissonant and complicated works, full of anomalies bordering on the chaotic, this disc will come as a huge surprise.

Ives was always emotionally attracted towards the song genre, and he wrote some 200 such pieces spread throughout his entire creative life. These range from traditional 'lieder' to texts by such poets as Heine and Lenau, to the typical English song of the period with words by such famous writers as Keats, Kipling and Bulwer-Lytton.

Some can also be labelled as 'pioneering' pop songs in the modern idiom, often to texts by Ives himself. Oddly enough, many of these pieces began life 'as songs without words', composed specifically for a chamber ensemble with a particular instrument being given the voice-part. This was largely due to Ives' great mistrust of singers, but in the end he decided to arrange them for voice and piano, although in his own words he 'weakened and simplified the original conceptions'.

This CD gathers together a collection of 31 such songs written over a period of some 30 years and differing greatly in style and approach, but this wide spectrum of textures certainly does not deter Gerald Finley in hi first solo recital recording, from delivering idiomatic performances full of virtuosic passion and philosophical insight. Julius Drake plays his part with dedication and conviction, particularly in the dissonant sections where Ives' demands are extremely taxing.

Calum Macdonald's notes on each of the pieces are a veritable treasure trove of information which should enhance the value of this issue a hundredfold. Generous playing time and a haunting reproduction of George Inness' 'Sunrise' on the booklet front page are the setting seals to a project of inestimable importance.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech