Notes and Editorial Reviews
Marc-André Hamelin recorded what for many listeners remains the reference recording of the Concord Sonata (New World), and this new recording does not efface memories of that outstanding performance. If, on the other hand, you don't have access to his earlier version, then I can recommend this newcomer without hesitation. The differences between them are small: timings are almost identical, and you can hear an additional fluency this time around, which is a mixed blessing in Ives' music. Hamelin is so technically adroit that it seems churlish to criticize him for playing too well, but there's a roughness to this music, Hawthorne in particular, that benefits from a wider dynamic range and a bit more sheer banging than Hamelin allows.
On the other hand, his poetic rendering of The Alcotts has a wholly apt, Chopinesque grace, and he's one of the few pianists to make a noticeable effort to scale down his dynamics for Thoreau.
This performance also includes the optional flute part, if you care (I don't). It's tough to compete with yourself when you play at Hamelin's level, so suffice it to say that this is very good by any standard, and I leave any remaining small differences between the two recordings to each listener's personal taste. In this respect, the coupling may be a determining factor. On New World, Hamelin includes Maurice Wright's uninteresting Sonata, while here we have an excellent account of the Barber. Once again, some listeners may miss the music's ultimate spikiness in this almost breezy account of the final fugue, for example, but even at its most truculent, Barber's music has a fastidious elegance that suits Hamelin's equally aristocratic polish and superb technique very well indeed. He knits the piece together effortlessly, and his moody account of the Adagio mesto slow movement is truly sad, not maudlin. The excellent recorded sound is well up to Hyperion's high standards.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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