Chamayou takes on Charles Ives’ monumental ‘Concord’ Sonata

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Bertrand Chamayou has added the formidable Sonata No.2 ‘Concord’ by American iconoclast Charles Ives to his repertoire: one of the most notoriously difficult piano works of the twentieth century – not only for its technical demands but also its complex philosophical and literary musings.

He performed the sprawling, 50-minute tour-de-force at the Printemps des Arts festival in Monte-Carlo over the Easter weekend, alongside the same composer’s pioneering Three Quarter-Tone Pieces for two pianos with duo partner Tamara Stefanovich, on instruments specially tuned for the occasion.

Le Figaro wrote of this ‘magistral’ performance: ‘We bow down before the combination of epic power and intellectual rigour with which Chamayou elucidates this material, without toning down the philosophical interplay…while exploiting the work’s humour and theatrics.’

Concert Classic opined that ‘this bravura piece found Bertrand Chamayou to be an interpreter who, thanks to fabulous technique and superhuman concentration, stamped his authority on the colossal 50-minute work, an immense mosaic in four movements defying the traditional logic of Sonata form. Mastering every detail, penetrating the density and compactness of the score…the soloist, though constantly placed under pressure, brought a strong sense of direction and meaning to the profusion of overlapping themes (between ragtime, popular songs, hymns and the idée fixe of Beethoven’s Fifth).

‘The instrument became a veritable orchestra when submitted to fingers as powerful as they are agile which never fail to do justice to this Everest demanding the total immersion and uncommon insights of its performer, especially when faced with clusters, intersecting melodies and other extended techniques; Chamayou is sure-fingered in Ives’ maze, which he transcends and makes compellingly accessible for his audience.’

Read the full review here (in French). Bertrand Chamayou plays Ives’ Concord Sonata again in an all-American programme including music by Copland and John Adams at the Festival de Pâques in Deauville on 15 April.