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Ives / Orchestral Works, Vol. 1
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Ives: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1
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Lange wurde die ungewöhnliche Musik von Charles Ives (1874-1954) ignoriert, dabei war er ein echter Visionär der Klassischen Moderne, denn er experimentierte bereits jahrelang mit Techniken, bevor sie gebräuchlicher Teil der Avantgarde-Musik wurden (z.B. mit der Gleichzeitigkeit unterschiedlicher Tempi, Bitonalität, Vierteltöne, Raummusik u.a.). Sir Andrew Davis und das Melbourne Symphony Orchestra ehren den amerikanischen Komponisten mit einer neuen CHANDOS-Reihe, die Aufnahmen seiner Orchesterwerke vorstellt. Den Anfang machen seine beiden ersten Sinfonien, die noch weitgehend spätromantische Züge aufweisen.
This is the first volume of a new series dedicated to the music of Charles Ives, performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and its principal conductor, Sir Andrew Davis. An amateur genius of avant-garde composing, who experimented with ground-breaking techniques years ahead of their time, the American composer started out with more conventional works as shown by the two early symphonies recorded here. Part of the score of the First Symphony was submitted as Ives's graduation project at Yale University in 1898 but its unconventional structure did not match the taste of his professor, Horatio Parker. Looking back at it, Ives felt that Parker had coerced him into writing a pastiche-based work in order to help him achieve his degree. Although the most conservative of Ives's symphonies, it was first performed only in 1953, after the premiere of the Third, in 1946, and the Second, in 1951. The premiere of the Second Symphony was given by the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein on Washington's birthday, and this momentous event in the overdue discovery of Ives's music matched the nationalistic nature of the piece itself, described by the New York Times at the time as 'rudely, tenderly, fantastically and cantankerously Yankee'.
Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony begin at the beginning for what is going to be a substantial series devoted Charles Ives's orchestral works; whether it's going to be a comprehensive one or not remains to be seen. Completed in 1898, though not performed until 1953, the year before he died, the First Symphony was Ives's graduation work from Yale. It s a late-Romantic work, rooted in Tchaikovsky, Brahms and especially Dvo ák, and thoroughly well behaved for the most part, too (Ives apparently cut a deal with his teacher Horatio Parker that allowed him a few harmonic indiscretions so long as the the first movement began and ended in the same key), with a convincing weight and a very decent fund of good tunes. But the five-movement Second, finished three years later, is much more self-consciously American in its sources quoting hymn tunes, marches and popular songs, including Stephen Foster's Camptown Races, and anticipating the much more radical use of that material to come. Davis and the orchestra capture the energy and moments of naughty-boy wildness in the music right up to the piled-up dissonance of the final chord, always remembering that both symphonies are fundamentally cut from traditional musical cloth. It s a promising start to the series, though the music will become more interesting as it goes on. **** --Guardian, 4/3/15
No composer in musical history has left a clutch of symphonies more bizarre than Charles Ives.It is good news that Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra are embarking on a complete cycle. They start at the beginning with the conservative First Symphony, which doffs its cap to the traditional models of Brahms and Dvorák, and the all-American Second, with its jaunty Yankee marches and hymn tunes. Ever scrupulous, Davis sifts Ives's complexities with clarity. The real fun the wild and wacky Third and Fourth Symphonies is all to come. --Ft, 30/03/15
Mervyn Cooke's sleeve note for this disc, the first in Sir Andrew Davis's Charles Ives cycle, sensibly punctures the main myth surrounding this most fascinating of composers. That he was insurance man by day, avant-garde pioneer by night isn't quite the truth. Spend some time listening to Ives's sprawling, ear-stretching 4th Symphony and you'll begin to wonder whether he knew what he was doing. He did, of course, and a few enjoyable hours spent in the company of these two symphonies demonstrate that Ives was, in Cooke's words, a highly trained conventional composer, well-poised for a conventional musical career. The flashes of rebellious unconventionality give both works their character. Symphony no 1 was Ives's Yale graduation piece, written under the guidance of the brusque, domineering Horatio Parker. Ives appreciated Parker's rigour, though later stated that he'd learned more about music from his untrained father. Parker wasn' t happy with the first movement's harmonic quirkiness, though a compromise was reached whereby Ives agreed to begin and finish in the same key. Brahms and Dvorak are the most audible influences (the slow movement features a very Dvorakian cor anglais solo), though the cheekiness and energy are typical of Ives. It rambles a bit, but the tunes are memorable and the orchestration is polished. There's also a pleasingly brassy coda, which looks forward to a similar moment in the follow up. Symphony no 2 was completed shortly afterwards, but lay unheard until Leonard Bernstein gave the premiere in 1951. Ives didn t approve of Bernstein's approach, disliking slight cuts in the last movement and the extended dissonant chord at the finale s close. You suspect that he'd have given his blessing to Sir Andrew Davis's more respectful performance, one which takes fewer liberties. The snatches of popular song which give the symphony its character are seamlessly integrated into the whole, and it sounds better behaved and more European as a result. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's playing is sumptuous, and Chandos's sound is spectacular, but a touch more wildness wouldn t have gone amiss. The last movement's coda should sound raucous and unhinged; here it's a little too well behaved. And Bernstein's stretching of the last note was a stroke of genius Davis makes it sound like an unintended error. I'm nitpicking though; there's plenty to enjoy here, particularly a radiant slow movement. Both symphonies deserve to be heard far more often, and anyone curious about Ives should start here. --ArtsDesk,11/4/15
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These more radical experiments are largely absent from the first two symphonies which are rather conventional works. Both are quite gentle to the ear, containing a plaintive lyricism Ives would soon abandon. The second symphony is a quite melodic work, containing moments of darkness that are strongly reminiscent of early Brahms. The first symphony seems a bit less sure in its construction, as if Ives were consciously tinkering with his conceptions of the symphonic genre. There are moments in both symphonies where Ives appears to be laughing at himself and at the notion of serious music as an artistic calling. There is much self-reflection and insecurity in all of his work. To me, it merely adds to his charm as well as abetting his search for authenticity as an American composer. That search drives all of his musical.creations. It is hardly surprising that Ives made his living in the insurance business in Hartford Connecticut and not as a composer.
This recording of the first two symphonies is the inaugural volume in a prospective series on the Chandos label of the orchestral works of Charles Ives. The performance of both symphonies by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis is exemplary. Davis and the orchestra give each work the appropriate emotional resonance. They are properly serious when the music turns dark, lighter and more rambunctious when Ives dons the clownish mantle as if to say "the preceding is not to be taken too seriously". Whether one does or not is dependent on the nature of the performance of his music. On this recording we are indeed meant to take his music seriously and it works quite well. The sound of this 5.0 surround sound SACD is in the reference class: it is spacious, warmly textured and boasts a deep and crisply articulated orchestral outpouring across a wide and naturalistic soundstage. If future recordings are as fine as this one, this will be an Ives series to celebrate. Strongly recommended for its performances and its superlative sound.