CHARLES IVES: Four Sonatas – Hilary Hahn violin; Valentina Lisitsa, piano – DGG B0016082-02 *****:
The first Ives works Hilary Hahn ever heard were his violin sonatas, so she is coming from a different place than most of us who first heard his music via his iconoclastic Fourth Symphony. The Ives idiom is in Hahn’s blood, and the two performing artists do a grand job of presenting these quirky, peculiar works in their best light. The first sonata is mostly tonal, the second gets wilder, with three movements: “Autumn,””In the Barn,” and “The Revival.”   The Third Sonata is filled with the hymns and revival tunes which were sung at camp meetings in New England in the 1870s and ‘80s.  The last sonata is shorter and lighter in mood than the other three.
There are sections peppered with dissonances, but they all seem to make sense in the up-tempo performances by Hahn and Lisitsa—more so than in the previous versions on Naxos.  The second movement of No. 2 is an especial joy with with its mash-up of “Turkey in the Straw” (most appropriate at the moment of writing this) and “Battle Cry of Freedom.”  Absolutely brilliant playing by both performers thruout!  Not to be missed by anyone with any interest in new music (though Ives is far from new anymore).
—John Sunier