Winter 2024

For Immediate Release
Kathryn King

Donald Berman Assays Charles Ives'

Sonata No. 2 for Piano: Concord, Mass., 1840-60

Recording to be Released on Avie

Reflects New Scholarship

on the Iconic Work

Donald Berman

Photo by Webb Chappell

Avie Records has announced the release of a new recording of Charles Ives' Concord Sonata by Donald Berman, to be issued (Avie AV2678) in May 2024. Melanne Mueller, president of Avie, says "We are delighted to be releasing this extraordinary recording in what is really a masterful performance by Donald Berman, one which reflects new insights into Ives' most iconic work." Mr. Berman, who is also president and treasurer of the Charles Ives Society, adds "It is gratifying to be able to put many years of reflection and study of the Concord into this recording for Avie, especially in 2024, Ives' sesquicentennial year.” 

Recent and upcoming engagements for Donald Berman include:

05 February / New England Conservatory / 8pm

05 March / The Ohio State University / 7:30pm

05 April / Wesleyan University / 8pm

28 April / UC San Diego / 3pm

24 June - 06 July / Longy School Divergent Studio New Music Workshop

Among his spring concerts will be a program titled Other Transcendentalists, which places two of Charles Ives’ solo piano works (Impression of the St.Gaudens in Boston Common and the monumental Concord Sonata) in conversation with a set of newly commissioned musical portraits of women who were pivotal figures in American Transcendentalism. The composers whose new works are part of this conversation are Eve Beglarian, David Sanford, Marti Epstein and Elena Ruehr.

Donald Berman's deep exploration of Charles Ives' piano works started when he was still in college, as he spent three years studying with the great John Kirkpatrick. Berman was the last person Kirkpatrick took on as a student. It was Kirkpatrick who gave the New York premiere of Ives' Concord Sonata at Town Hall in New York City in 1939, and who assembled all of Ives' manuscripts to be housed at the Yale Music Library, where they now reside. So Berman's initiation into the world of Charles Ives and his music could not have been set in motion by a more authoritative source. In later years Berman realized the need for a complete, newly edited set of Ives' shorter works for solo piano, a project he set for himself and to which he dedicated three decades of research and editing. As of 2022, these short works are all now published, in three volumes. During the time devoted to creating new editions of the short works he also maintained a continued study and analysis of the Concord Sonata.

One of the reasons that editing Ives' manuscripts is so challenging is that Ives thought of his compositions not as established entities but as living, malleable statements which he frequently commented on and made changes to in the manuscripts' pages himself. To quote an address Berman gave at a conference on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Concord Sonata:

"Each [of Ives' emendations] was a step toward realizing his vision for a three-dimensional auditory experience that best personified the transcendentalists, their community, and the musical ideals that make up the substance and manner of the Second Piano Sonata."

Ives apparently made so many changes to the Concord Sonata that it prompted this exasperated note to Ives' wife Harmony from his publisher on 02 April 1947: 

“I do hope that Mr. Ives is not again re-writing the SONATA by means of extensive corrections. The plates absolutely will not stand any more and secondly, inasmuch as the original engraver is out of business, the re-engraving will not match too well…and thirdly, this proof was supposed to be a complete and final corrected proof.” !

In the process of sorting through Ives' many notes and corrections to the Concord Sonata over the years, Berman came to the conclusion that parts of the first movement of the piece should be played differently than the accepted version heard on every performance and recording of the piece up till now. The editing adjustments Berman has made - including two pages of added material based on Ives' notes - result in a vastly different opening to the first movement, recorded for the first time ever on this Avie release, produced by Adam Abeshouse.

Preceding the Concord Sonata on the new Avie release is Impression of the St.Gaudens in Boston Common. Ives wrote St. Gaudens first as a piano work, subtitled “Black March.” Later, he penciled orchestra parts directly onto the piano score, for his work toward the first movement of Three Places in New England. "St Gaudens" refers to the sculpture on the Boston Common across from the State House, by Augustus St. Gaudens. It depicts the marching soldiers of the Massachusetts 54th, the first Union army regiment of African American soldiers, including two sons of Frederick Douglass. Company troops died in the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, and Gaudens carved their names into the plinth. In St. Gaudens, Ives quotes from the spiritual I’m Comin’. On the manuscript he wrote, movingly, “Your country was made from you – Images of a divine law carved in the shadow of a saddened heart.” And he offers a description of the music: “Above and beyond that compelling mass rises the drumbeat of a common heart.”

Donald Berman is a multi-dimensional American pianist, scholar and educator who has consistently placed an emphasis on 20th and 21st century music, and on American composers in particular. He has made dozens of recordings on a variety of labels, both as soloist and as collaborative pianist. An enthusiastic commissioner of new music, he has added over 200 works to the contemporary canon.

Mr. Berman’s body of work as a recording artist demonstrates both the breadth and depth of his engagement with music of our time. Many of his recordings are world premieres, but he has also illuminated historic and previously unknown works of American composers (Americans in Rome / Bridge; The Unknown Ives vols. I & II / CRI, New World; The Uncovered Ruggles / New World), performed with orchestra (George Perle: Serenades / BMOP), collaborated with singers (This Island / Avie and the Grammy nominated The Edge of Silence w/Susan Narucki / Avie); in works of William McClelland: Where the Shadow Glides / Naxos) and with chamber ensembles (The Worlds Revolve w/Borromeo Quartet / Avie). After the Concord Sonata, his next album will be one with baritone Stephen Salters, Songs for Stephen, featuring works by Elena Ruehr, to be released in June 2024. Other recordings can be found on Accurate, ARSIS Audio, BMOP Sound, Bridge, CRI, Capstone Records, Centaur, Koch, Naxos, New World Records, Newport Classics and Summit.

Mr. Berman, a Radcliffe scholar, is general editor of three volumes of Charles Ives’ Shorter Works for Piano, a project finished in 2022 that took 30 years to complete. He is Chair of Keyboard Studies at Longy School of Music of Bard College and leads New Music Ensemble at Tufts University. In his position as president of the board of the Charles Ives Society, he is curating an extensive expansion of the Society’s Ives archive, a treasure trove of in-depth information accessible to all via

Mr. Berman’s trajectory as musician and scholar was set in motion by four important teachers: Mildred Victor, George Barth, and principally John Kirkpatrick and legendary pedagogue Leonard Shure.

“...Donald Berman, for all his technical prowess, his power, his personal charm, managed to link virtually all the music...It was a rare program, and Mr. Berman is a rare performer...” -

“...thrillingly clear performance [of] Schubert’s D major Sonata...” - New York Times

“...a spectacular set of Ives. An editor of the composer’s pieces, Mr. Berman has an innate feel for all of Ives’s paradoxes and complexities. He found the perfect balance of fire and rhapsody...” -New York Times

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For more information about Donald Berman, visit,

and call 917-751-8228.

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