The Observer

The double life of Charles Ives (1874-1954) is summed up most aptly in his rhetorical remark: ‘If a composer has a nice wife and some nice children, how can he let them starve on his dissonances?’ With this comment, Ives completed his studies at Yale and went into the insurance profession, when he rose to the most senior ranks while concurrently composing music away from the public eye and free of commercial demands. His peculiar mélange of popular American songs, hymns and marching-band tunes, all combined with his own unique voice, lends his compositions a beautiful old-world charm while still shocking the listener with their startling freshness, remarkably vibrant after nearly a century.

Perhaps providing the finest interpretation of the two piano sonatas on disc, one each opening this superb two-CD set, Philip Mead is in his element, dexterously flying through those glittering dissonances and freely enjoying Ives’s unstilted ragtime motifs. CLASSICAL CD OF THE WEEK

—Tarik O'Regan