Alan Mandel began his program at American University Friday night with pieces by a couple of early immigrants to the United States, Alexander Reinagle and Philip Corri, and with the Washington premiere of a distinctive piece by Starer called "Evanescents," but the real subject of the evening's endeavor was the music of Charles Ives. Mandel is as uncompromising a pianist as Ives was a composer, so the two are ideally suited to each other. Ives delighted in the storms that resulted when knotty ideas clashed, and Mandel clearly relishes wading into those storms, the wilder the better.
His Ives program included a group of five unpublished pieces, a couple not much more than sketches. A jolly March in G and D, however, and a short thing called "Baseball Take-Off" can certainly stand on their own and belong in the repertoire. On a more familiar note, Mandel also played the delightful "Five Takeoffs" and a powerful set of eight of Ives' studies. These are highly intense and compact works, particularly Nos. 5 and 20A, which, in a brief form, model the power and individuality that characterize Ives' more extensive works.
It was a demanding program, the kind Mandel loves to attack, and he did so with great style and intensity.