Notes and Editorial Reviews
An arrangement of another's music, says UCLA Director Emeritus of Bands Jonathan Elkus, must "fulfill or exceed on its own terms the musical values of its source." On those terms Henry Brant's arrangement for full orchestra of Ives' Concord Sonata is a clear success. Brant set out to orchestrate the sonata for two reasons. One was to pay homage to the decisive influence Ives' music had on his own artistic aims. The other was his recognition that the Concord could make a "great orchestral piece."
Of all the major Ives works, the Concord Sonata is the only one Ives polished to a published, definitive form. Brant makes it into the best purely orchestral expression of Ives' search for the Transcendent in music.
(The Fourth Symphony requires a chorus, and any version of the Universe Symphony is a conjecture by others as to what Ives wanted.) Since Brant is much better at orchestration than Ives ever was or cared to be, this transcription both enlarges and clarifies the musical experience of the Concord, and enriches it with orchestral color. Particularly effective are the ragtime and march episodes of the Hawthorne movement and the otherworldly sustained chords of Thoreau.
Innova's release is Volume 7 of its ongoing Henry Brant Collection; it makes available a live concert recording from September 15, 2000 (Brant's 87th birthday). Happily, the performances and recording crew are top notch. Dennis Russell Davies had led the European premiere three years earlier, and in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra he had a band fully capable of dealing with any difficulties posed by the music. The result is a CD that does full justice to the work of both Ives and Brant. This release is essential to a collection with any focus at all on American music.
--Joseph Stevenson, ClassicsToday.com
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