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Ives: Symphony No 2, Etc / Bernstein, Schuller, Et Al


Release Date: 08/30/2005 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 94731   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Charles Ives
Performer:  William Vacchiano
Conductor:  Leonard BernsteinSeiji OzawaGunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York PhilharmonicOrchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Many recordings of Ives’s Second Symphony, based on various versions of the score, have appeared in recent years, but this 1958 Columbia recording remains the best of all. Its flaws have been discussed ad nauseum : the score was hastily assembled by Henry Cowell, with minimum help from Ives, who was old and ill at the time; a repeat in the second movement was omitted from that score. Bernstein makes a 16-measure cut in the finale, and Ives complained that the finale (of the 1951 Bernstein broadcast, now available in the New York Philharmonic Special Editions set “Bernstein Live”) was too slow—and it is even slower here. Subsequent, more scholarly editions are not perfect, Read more either; the first Ives Society-sanctioned score was too cautious, losing some of the feisty spirit of the music. The latest, by Jonathan Elkus, is far better, but its only recording, on Naxos, is by a lesser orchestra which had to be too careful in performance. As for the tempo in the finale, no one has taken it faster than Bernstein, for a variety of reasons, and here the conductor may have known better than the composer; internal realizations of a score and actual performance are very different beasts. Although I wouldn’t dare argue with either Ives or Bernstein, I don’t feel a quicker tempo would improve the finale. We claim to take a composer’s ideas as gospel today; we do so with Ives and Bartók, yet it remains common to challenge Stravinsky’s own tempos. Similarly, we make allowances for anything some conductors do (Toscanini, Furtwängler), while we challenge everything by others (Mengelberg, Bernstein). It all comes down to current fashion.


Nevertheless, no other performance can match the combination of high spirits, orchestral panache, and fine sound heard in this 1958 recording. It has remained in print from the day of its initial issue and should always be available. Just what is it that makes this performance so special? It is, in a word, jubilant. It displays the close bond between Bernstein and his orchestra in the 1950s; it showcases the Philharmonic’s wonderfully colorful winds of that era, headed by Harold Gomberg’s oboe and John Wummer’s flute. It revels in the superb acoustics of the Grand Ballroom in Brooklyn’s St. George Hotel, the finest of 16 New York sites at which the Philharmonic has recorded. In short, everything sounds just right. It seems like pure Ives; it is Bernstein’s Ives, of course, but whose better? We will never hear an Ives-led performance. As for the other Bernstein recordings of this symphony, the 1951 broadcast premiere is scrappily played and in monaural sound, while his 1987 Deutsche Grammophon recording is too relaxed, too smooth (it is almost two-and-one-half minutes longer than this performance). This recording’s first CD issue, CBS MK 42407, sounded very much like the LP; “The Royal Edition” (SMK-47568) was poor, the “Bernstein Century” (SMK-60202) excellent. This new issue has been re-mastered yet again; it is even cleaner and with greater stereo separation than before, but I’m not sure it is an improvement, as the strings now sound less natural.


The Unanswered Question is given a vibrant, thoughtful reading, but there have been more subtle ones. Central Park in the Dark , an Ivesian travelogue, enjoys a truly New York performance, by musicians who played every day in Carnegie Hall, just two blocks from that park. Although this issue doesn’t say so, the two conductors were supervised by Leonard Bernstein in this recording.


The Gunther Schuller-led miniatures are played by an all-star ensemble selected by the conductor. The performances tend towards the virtuoso showpiece rather than Ivesian introspection, but they are no less welcome for that, in their first outing on CD. The songs apparently do exist in these alternate instrumental versions, but Chromâtimelôdtune is a Schuller realization of an undated Ives sketch. One can hear both the sketcher and the conductor-composer in its five-plus minutes.


Here comes one of those Fanfare moments: Ives’s Second Symphony lies at the heart of American music, and Bernstein’s 1958 recording, in whatever issue, is the foundation stone of any collection thereof.


FANFARE: James H. North
This is a DSD (Direct Stream Digital) recording Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 2 by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1900-1902; USA 
2.
The Unanswered Question no 2 by Charles Ives
Performer:  William Vacchiano (Trumpet)
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
3.
Contemplations (2): no 2, Central Park in the Dark by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; USA 
4.
Tone Roads (3): no 1, Fast "All Roads Lead to the Centre" by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; USA 
5.
Tone Roads (3): no 3, Slow and fast "Rondo rapid transit" by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; USA 
6.
From the Steeples and Mountains by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1901-02; USA 
7.
Set no 6 for Small Orchestra "From the Side Hill": no 2, The Rainbow by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1925-1930; USA 
8.
Set no 5 for Small Orchestra "The Other Side of Pioneering...": no 4, Ann Street by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1925; USA 
9.
Over the Pavements by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906-1913; USA 
10.
Set no 7 for Small Orchestra "Water Colors": no 3, The Pond by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1925-1930; USA 
11.
All the Way Around and Back by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; USA 
12.
Chromâtimelôdtune by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Gunther Schuller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1923; USA 

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