I became interested in revisiting the music of the great American composer Charles Ives (1874 -- 1954) after reading the new biography, by Stephen Budiansky, "Charles Ives: The Nostalgic Rebel." I had heard and reviewed several recordings of Ives in the Naxos labels' "American Classics" series, but I had missed this CD, recorded in 2002 and released in 2005, of Ives' Symphony No. 1 and of his "Emerson" piano concerto. The only Amazon review to date of this CD is that of the late Bob Zeidler, dated October 31, 2003. I decided to write a short remembrance of Bob's Amazon Ives' reviews in addition to discussing the CD.
Naxos has recorded much of the orchestral, chamber, piano, and vocal music of Ives. This CD features Ives early and Ives late. James Sinclair, the noted conductor and Ives scholar, conducts the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland with Alan Feinberg, a champion of contemporary music, performing the "Emerson" concerto. Jan Swafford, the author of a landmark Ives biography, prepared the liner notes.
The CD is a study in contrasts. Ives composed his symphony no. 1 while still a student at Yale for his teacher, the musically conservative Horatio Parker. The symphony is in the style of late romanticism with a particular debt to Dvorak. It is in traditional symphonic form but with imaginative orchestration and changes of key. The symphony is tuneful and accessible throughout particularly in the lyrical first movement and in the heavily-Dvorak influenced slow movement. It works to grand perorations at the conclusion of the first and final movements. The recording here is lengthier than earlier recordings because Sinclair opts to take the first movement repeat. As an early work, the symphony tends to wander and to be prolix at times but it is infectious and exuberant. Sinclair uses a new text of the work which corrects many earlier errors.
The "Emerson Concerto" is Ives late. The composer had written out this work in draft but never completed it. Instead, Ives used most of the thematic material in other late compositions, including the "Concord" piano sonata. David C. Porter reconstructed the work for performance. It premiered in 1998 with Feinberg at the piano and had several live performances in addition to this CD. It does not appear to have been performed much subsequent to this recording. The four-movement work is clangorous and impressive with strong, varied virtuoso writing for the piano. The music shifts frequently in tempo and character, with lyrical, blues-influenced sections alternating with harsh dissonances. The work has a propulsive forward-looking quality that Ives found in the American philosopher he so admired. Although this work is a "reconstruction" it is totally Ivesian in character and well worth hearing.
Bob Zeidler's review of this CD says what needs to be said. Many veteran Amazon reviewers remember Bob for his reviews which combined scholarship, love and enthusiasm and for his unstinting friendship and encouragement of fellow lovers of music. Bob reviewed broadly in music, including some popular titles as well as his encyclopediac knowledge of classical music. He participated in the New York Time's Classical Music Forum as well as reviewing on Amazon. Bob Zeidler (January 18, 1939 -- April 2, 2005) wrote 242 reviews on Amazon beginning with a review of a CD of Celtic folk music on April 13, 1999, and concluding with a review of Rachmaninov piano concertos on December 31, 2004. Bob was an inventor and held three patents.
Bob's reviews show a special love for and knowledge of Charles Ives. Including the CD under review, Bob wrote 15 reviews of books and recordings about Ives together with several other reviews that deal in part with the composer. His reviews are marked by scholarship and enthusiasm. I wanted to gather together and give links to a number of Bob's Ives reviews to help make them accessible as a guide to readers and as a remembrance.
Bob's review of this CD is titled "Charlie Done Right, Part III". Bob wrote to related reviews titled "Charlie Done Right", parts I and II of Naxos CDs. We will begin with them.
1. Review of Ives Symphony No. 2, September 30, 2000, "Ives Done Right". Ives: Symphony No. 2; Robert Browning Overture
2. Review of Ives Symphony No. 3, March 9, 2003, "Ives Done Right, Part II". Ives: Symphony No. 3
Here are some additional Ives CDs Bob reviewed.
3. Review of Ives' four violin and piano sonatas on Naxos, January 2, 2004. Violin Sonatas 1-4
4. Review of collection of Ives songs by Jan DeGaetani, August 17, 2004. Songs
5. Review of Ives' Holidays Symphony, November 27, 2003. Ives: Holidays Symphony
Now for some of Bob's book reviews about Ives.
6. Review of Jan Swafford's biography, "Charles Ives" A Life with Music" July 15, 2001. Charles Ives: A Life with Music
7. Review of a delightful children's book by Mordicai Gerstein, "What Charlie Heard", August 23, 2004 What Charlie Heard
8. Review of "Ives Celebration" a collection of papers published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ives' birth, Vivian Perlis, ed, May 27, 2004, Ives Celebration: Papers and Panels of the Charles Ives Centennial Festival (Music in American life)
9. Review of "Charles Ives Remembered", source material edited by Vivian Perlis, May 9, 2003. Charles Ives Remembered: AN ORAL HISTORY (Music in American Life)
10. Review of "Charles Ives and the Classical Tradition" by J. Peter Burkholder, May 11, 2004. Charles Ives and the Classical Tradition
I have enjoyed revisiting both Ives and his highly insightful reviewer, Bob Zeidler. Bob's life are story are inspiring for those who love music and who work seriously on Amazon reviews. I hope this review will remind Bob's friends of his writing here on Amazon and introduce new readers and reviewers to both Charles Ives and Bob Zeidler.