Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
Ranging from tender sentiment to savage chaos, the music of early 20th-century composer Charles Ives explores an essentially American riddle: how can we survive the relentless assault of our own success? It was an enigma Ives embodied himself. He believed that we should all be brave enough to go it alone - yet he earned his living in insurance! In this Keeping Score (Blu-ray disc / DVD) , Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony unwrap the layers of Ives's Holidays Symphony to reveal a surprising musical portrait of New England. The symphony's four movements journey across the terrain of the seasons. From the intimacy of the
winter hearth to the explosive concussion of the 4th of July, discover the insights Ives liberates in his music's confrontational crunch. Join Michael Tilson Thomas as he, the San Francisco Symphony, and Charles Ives belt it out over truth, beauty, and the American Way. Bonus Feature Full-length concert performance of Ives's Holidays Symphony by the San Francisco Symphony in high-definition 16:9 widescreen and 7.1 surround sound.
R E V I E W:
IVES Holidays Symphony • Michael Tilson Thomas, cond; San Francisco S • SFS MEDIA 8 21936-0024-9-0 (DVD: 111:50)
"The DVD—part of the series “Keeping Score”—has two basic sections: 54 minutes titled “Holidays Symphony,” in which Thomas talks about Ives, the society in which he grew up, and how it contributed to his music and to the Symphony, which celebrates each of the four seasons in New England. It shows square dancing (to the Thompson String Ticklers) and marching bands, including two which pass through each other playing different music in different keys. Tilson Thomas then subjects the music to non-technical analysis; video is great at this, enabling the non-score-reader to follow what is going on. For example, we see a few notes played by a single Jew’s harp in Washington’s Birthday; because we have seen it, we are then able to hear it amid the orchestral chaos. Ives said, “in this piece, from a dozen to a hundred Jew’s harps are necessary—one would hardly be heard” (Memos), but he didn’t know video. Part 2 of the DVD is a performance, in an empty, darkened Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco. But Tilson Thomas cannot resist introducing each movement with a few minutes of explanation, which weakens his view of it as a Symphony. Audio and video quality are superb; the case says high-definition 16:9 widescreen and 7.1 surround sound; the selection choices are Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 (I listened on a five-channel system). Subtitles are available in English, German, French, Spanish, and two levels of Chinese (Mandarin?). Among several extra features are another (brief) Tilson Thomas talk, Charles Ives: An Appreciation, and tantalizing trailers for other “Keeping Score” DVDs: Symphonie fantastique, Shostakovich 5, the “Eroica,” The Rite of Spring, Copland and the American Sound, and The Making of a Performance.
On the impeccably produced DVD, we see everything happening; it is a superb learning experience, even for one who has known Ives’s music for half a century. The performance is typical MTT: lean and clean, with everything heard; the orchestra plays beautifully."
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
Holidays by Charles Ives
Michael Tilson Thomas
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1904-1913; USA
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