Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Ives Concord in the Digital Concert Hall

The Concord Sonata spoke to the fourth Symphony across programs as pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard returned to the stage for a late-night concert transmitted in the Digital Concert Hall soon after the Berliner Philharmonic program of American Music. The event created the rare opportunity to draw comparisons between the Symphony No. 4 and the Concord Sonata by Charles Ives. Rarely would one have the opportunity to hear both performed live during the same evening.

The comparisons were surprising. The optional passage for viola in the first movement of the Concord spoke brought to mind the choral entrance that closes the first movement of the fourth symphony. Also, the flute entrance on the final page of the Concord harmonized the choral entry in the final movement of the fourth symphony. Both third movements spoke of the past; Ives referred to the Alcott movement of the sonata as proclaiming “Concord's common virtue—it seems to bear a consciousness that its past is living.” The juxtaposition of musical simultaneities even took on a different sense of spacial placement in the sonata after hearing the symphony. It was an enlightening event.

Aimard stopped playing abruptly only moments after beginning the sonata and said something to the audience. With the microphone placement I could not hear what he said. He began the sonata again but it was hard to focus for a short time after the disruption.

The camera angles were of interest, and occasionally amusing, during the performance. There was such a close shot during one scene of the first movement that one could see Aimard’s pencil markings on page 17 of the score. But one could be convinced that folks in the control panel were listening to the score in pdf format because there were several instances where the preparation for a page turn (always odd page numbers) were missed, and we got an unwelcome full-cheek view of the page turner from the floor camera.

Aimard caught fire during the Hawthorne movement, which was consistently supercharged in this performance and the energy from the second movement carried musical energy through the lyrical and mystic final movements until the work ended in near silence. Aimard remained in motionless in silence for almost 15 seconds after the sound died away. Applause broke the spell but the impact of the playing remained.

Emerson was “reaching out through and beyond mankind,” wrote Ives, “trying to see what he can of the infinite and its immensities.” Some of these immensities certainly found their way through the digital concert hall.

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