Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Universe Symphony can now be seen clearly as Ives' largest and grandest conception. As the last work of this inveterate musical iconoclast, it is only fitting that its instrumentation be strikingly different and more ambitious than any other. Characteristically far-reaching, the composer described the symphony enigmatically, more in terms of the 'painting of Creation' and 'not music as such.' During his lifetime, its completion would remain out of his grasp, to his intense frustration.
New findings and research by Johnny Reinhard enabled him to construct a fresh performing version lasting 64 minutes and requiring 74 musicians including, extraordinarily, nine flutes, five bassoons and fourteen percussionists. He conducted
its premiere, at Lincoln Center, New York, on June 6 1996 with the full approval of the Charles Ives Society. For the last five years, the Stereo Society has been carefully preparing a commercial recording directed by Reinhard of this new version which benefits from many of New York's top musicians. Unsurprisingly, this recording also needed to utilize some novel techniques.
The names of its movements are evocative: "Earth Alone", "Pulse of The Cosmos", "Birth of the Oceans", "Earth is of the Heavens" and more. Dramatically, most of the first half hour is scored for percussion alone, building from a solitary low bell to a unique sonic mix with all players sounding different patterns, until winding down again. This remarkable pattern cycles through and underpins the whole work, and when solo anticipates later all-percussion pieces such as Varese's "Ionisation" and Cage's "Constructions in Metal". The second half layers the huge, unique orchestra over the ceaseless percussion, until concluding the tenth cycle with the solitary bookend, the low bell.
The symphony's realization differs from convention in almost every imaginable way, yet Reinhard remarks that he did not add any notes to the composer's original manuscripts. He sees his role not as a creator, but rather a curator, and has argued his editorial decisions coherently and decisively in a book of nearly 200 pages. The new, authoritative recording documents, finally, the crowning achievement of America's musical father figure. At last, Mr Ives might have been satisfied.
Works on This Recording
Universe Symphony by Charles Ives
American Festival of Microtonal Music Ensemble
Period: 20th Century
Length: 64 Minutes 31 Secs.
Notes: Arranger: Johnny Reinhard.
Composition written: USA (1911 - 1928).
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