Work: Symphony no 3 "The Camp Meeting"
About This Work
Charles Ives' Third Symphony, subtitled "The Camp Meeting," originated in a trio of organ works written for services at Central Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1901-1902. Ives scored them for orchestra in 1904, and revised the whole
significantly in 1909-1911. The Third is the most atypical of Ives' five symphonies. Scored in a classical manner with strings and a few winds, this is a clear and uncluttered reminiscence of nineteenth century America as prismatically viewed through some of its traditional hymn tunes.
The first movement, "Old Folks' Gatherin'" (Andante maestoso), quotes the hymn tunes Azmon, Erie (that is, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"), and Woodworth ("Just As I Am"). Wandering strings set the pace for what follows; a patchwork of hymn tunes drifting through an unpredictable, constantly changing harmonic orientation. After a climax is reached, a quiet passage opens with oboe and flute over hushed, distant strings. Ives reintroduces part of the middle section, and settles down to a quiet coda, ending the movement almost imperceptibly.
The second movement, "Children's Day" (Allegro) opens with strings in two parts over Haydnesque eighth notes in the horns. "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood," "Happy Land," "Naomi," and "There's Music in the Air" all are heard, although one could swear "Aloha Oe" is also peeking through the texture. As this is a movement depicting children at play, Ives is playful himself, weaving hymn tunes into one another in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, and using parts of tunes to imitate the sound of other hymns.
The third movement, "Communion" (Largo), has its roots in a communion piece originally scored for unison chorus, organ, and strings. It is much darker in tone than the others, and "Azmon" and "Woodworth" return from the first movement. As the third movement relates strongly in content to the first, it provides a psychologically satisfactory close to the work as a whole.
Ives added about two dozen "shadow" parts to this symphony, where instruments play pianissimo in the shadow of the principal voices. Ives had stricken these from his manuscripts, and the fair ink copy made by Carl Pagano in 1946, which led to Lou Harrison's 1947 edition of the symphony, did not retain these details. They were not included until the Ives Society edition of 1990. In performance, they make a difference, particularly at climax points.
The Third Symphony of Ives was first heard under Lou Harrison at a League of Composers concert in New York City on April 5, 1946. Later that year, the work was awarded a special citation by the New York Music Critics' Circle, and on May 5, 1947, it won Ives the Pulitzer Prize for music. Ives, then 72 years of age, gave away the $25,000 cash award, stating "prizes are for boys and I'm all grown up."
-- Uncle Dave Lewis
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