1902, 1910, 1911, 1913, 2006, Music

Ives: Symphonies Nos 2 and 3 (2006) by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton

This set pairs Ives’ middle symphonies with the “song” he orchestrated.

The second symphony opens with a movement that is, for Ives, startlingly traditional but it soon brings the zaniness he’s known for.

The second movement builds slowly to a rather massive climax that feels particularly late Romantic and reminds me of some of my favourite pieces from the era (not in a bad way).

The third movement features some of Ives’ most beautiful music. It’s perhaps the most telling reminder in the whole piece that the neglect the US musical establishment showed Ives at this time is downright preposterous. What possible reason could they have had for ignoring music like this? (The answer probably lies in the fact that they snubbed the man, not the music, and never even gave the music a chance.)

The firth movement contains the most audible quotes (to my ears) of others’ music and so is perhaps the most Ivesian of the bunch.

The whole thing is an impressive piece that I liked a lot more after I gave it a few listens.

The third symphony won the Pulitzer in 1947, I guess because of the collective guilt of the US cultural establishment, who had ignored the work for over three decades. From its opening movement, it is uniquely Ivesian and the title ‘Camp Meeting’ feels completely fitting – I like to imagine this symphony representing the cultural life of Chautauqua. I’m inclined to prefer symphony the second, frankly, but Mahler apparently liked this one, and so that’s a pretty ringing endorsement (since, you know, Mahler is God).

“General William Booth” has the usual bonkers stuff of Ives’ songs, only there’s a choir and orchestration, so it sounds considerably more bonkers than had this been played on piano. It’s pretty damn cool.

On the whole this is a great collection of some of Ives’s orchestral work.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.