Charles Ives: Four Sonatas

Hilary Hahn / Valentina Lisitsa

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Charles Ives: Four Sonatas Review

by Blair Sanderson

When violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist Valentina Lisitsa began working together on Charles Ives' violin sonatas, they commenced with the Third Sonata, which they took on tour in 2008. A second tour with the First, Second, and Fourth sonatas followed, and by 2010, the duo was ready to record all four works for Deutsche Grammophon. This cycle, complete on one CD, was an unexpected hit with recital audiences, and promises to win over new listeners who may at first be startled by Ives' unorthodox approaches to form and content, yet will come to appreciate the mixture of nostalgic melodies, quirky rhythms, pungent and sweet harmonies, and colliding elements of Americana as surprisingly communicative and moving music. Hahn is quite serious in these performances, and perhaps too tightly focused on getting the details right to really break free, yet she is at her best in conveying wistful and melancholic emotions, so her introspective and careful playing has many fine moments. Lisitsa seems much more comfortable with making a big Ivesian noise, and her playing is as robust as Hahn's is close-to-the-vest. The sound of these studio recordings is well-balanced and clear, though the tone is cool and the ambience is a little dry.

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