The stated objective of Allegro Corporation's Endeavour Classics product line is "to bring both rapidly rising young stars and established performers to classical audiences featuring new or under-explored repertoire." Charles Ives: Works for Violin & Piano is Endeavour's second recording with Canadian violinist Jasper Wood and pianist David Riley. This collection of Ives' violin music kicks off with his Sonata No. 4 for violin and piano "Children's Day at the Camp Meeting," a popular work that can hardly be categorized as "under-explored." However, the inexplicably neglected Sonata No. 3 and the shorter pieces included here are indeed seldom heard, with the Matthew Fuerst arrangements of seven of Ives' Songs constituting a first recording.
Tempos throughout tend to be a bit on the fast side. Ives' Largo for violin & piano, better known in its incarnation as the Largo for violin, clarinet & piano, starts out at andante and is moving at an allegro clip by the time one makes it to the middle section. The youthful enthusiasm of both players for this music may be what keeps the tempo high throughout the disc, and that is certainly preferable than allowing the music to drag. Nevertheless, no matter what the listener's taste may be in terms of speed in these pieces, one wants to hear more of the violin in relation to the piano, which is the dominant instrument insofar as this recording is concerned. John Kirkpatrick's controversial realization of Decoration Day for violin & piano is given its first recording since Kirkpatrick himself recorded it with violinist Daniel Stepner back in 1981 for the Musical Heritage Society. The violin version of Decoration Day is okay, and its return to the active catalog welcome, but the brief song arrangements are the real highlight of the disc. This selection of seven numbers is taken from Ives' vocal music of the Gay Nineties, and Wood makes them sing. Divorced from the context of their lyrics, it is also a little easier to appreciate how finely wrought Ives' accompaniments are. Kären and Feldeinsamkeit both come off particularly well. Overall, Charles Ives: Works for Violin & Piano is nicely done; just next time give us a little more of the soloist, please.