Wednesday, 17 May 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, May 2017)

IVES Orchestral Works Vol.2
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Chandos 5163 / *****

Charles Ives (1874-1954) was a pioneer among American composers. His fiercely individual and independent nature led him away from a predominantly Euro-centric school of composition into new worlds of sonority, paving the way for 20th century American modernism. This disc houses the major orchestral works outside of his four numbered symphonies.

New England Holidays, sometimes performed as a 4-movement symphony, comprises separate orchestral pieces commemorating red-letter days of the American calendar. Washington's Birthday, Decoration Day, The Fourth Of July, Thanksgiving and Forefather's Day are represented, each showcasing a trademark of his: the use of popular songs and hymns often raucously mixed within general orchestral mayhem. 

The inclusion of unusual instruments such as the Jew's harp and juxtaposition of clashing ensembles, each playing different melodies in different keys, was another hallmark.

The excellent Melbourne Symphony led by Sir Andrew Davis, brilliantly recorded, also serves a treat in Three Places In New England, another three-movement “symphony” with atmospheric and impressionist echoes. 

The two shorter companion “contemplations”, the evocative Central Park In The Dark and the mystery of The Unanswered Question, complete this impressive collection.    

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