Kathryn Goodson - Charles Ives
Individualistic and eccentric
For an accompanist, pianist Kathryn Goodson has an outsize personality. Her enthusiastic playing isn't merely an accompaniment to the singer or instrumentalist but a full partner and then some. In her recent Kerrytown recital of Brahms's Die schöne Magelone, Goodson's playing complemented, supported, pushed, forced, and occasionally even dominated the singers, but it was always as important to the success of the recital as the singers. Goodson's program notes and translations were models of taste, intelligence, and, like her performance, enthusiasm. While Brahms's robust settings of Tieck's ersatz medieval romances are not among his most subtle or profound songs, Goodson's passionate energy made them wholly persuasive.
For her recital at the U-M School of Music on Sunday, May 15, Goodson has programmed songs and sonatas of Charles Ives. She has clearly put much time and thought into the form and shape of the recital: while Ives's two violin sonatas are the longest works on the program, they are embedded in a larger concept. In a program entitled The Man of 1,000 Faces, Goodson and her soloists will explore Ives's views on religion, serenity, American life, memories, and transcendentalism. Performing with violinist Gabriel Bolkosky of the Phoenix Ensemble and mezzo-soprano Leah Dexter of the Michigan Opera Theater, baritone Christopher Grapentine of Northside Community Church, and tenor Gregory Wakefield of the U-M computer science faculty, Goodson has planned a recital as individualistic and eccentric as the composer himself.
In a sort of concert narrative, Goodson will talk about Ives's music in the context of his life. And what a life: Ives may have been the most radical American composer of the turn of the last century, but his day job was selling insurance. In fact, Ives ran one of the biggest and most successful insurance agencies on the East Coast. But his business didn't stop his musical development. Whatever you want in modern music - atonality or polytonality, aleatoric music or musique concrte, multiple meters or metrical modulation,
the clearest counterpoint or the sheerest unrelenting noise - Ives probably did it before anyone else.
As the repertoire Goodson has chosen demonstrates, Ives was the world's first - and is probably still the world's leading - polystylistic composer. He could write successfully in any genre, and, what's more, he could do it all in the same piece. While Ives's muse inspired him to compose everything from parlor songs to violin sonatas, his temperament led him to combine them all helter-skelter and even willy-nilly. The unity in Ives's diversity was his unwavering faith in his country and his unreserved belief in his God. Whether beatifically alone on the mountain or ecstatically celebrating a revival meeting, Ives's music embraced the multitudes and contradictions of American musical life.
[Originally published in May, 2005.]