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Ives: An American Journey

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Product details

  • Audio CD (4 Mar. 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Red Seal
  • ASIN: B00005UED6
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 46,559 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Product Description

TILSON THOMAS MICHAEL / SAN FR

BBC Review

Charles Ives, the great American original: innovator, eccentric, and irrepressible humorist whose quirky genius combined the essence of the old ways of American life with a kind of revolutionary modernism.

Ives held up a musical mirror to early 20th century America, and he found an astonishing variety of ways of framing folk songs, hymn tunes, landscapes and social scenes inside a restless, adventurous musical language. As Michael Tilson Thomas puts it in his notes: "Ives's music is gleeful, goofy, ecstatic, and nostalgic, but always in the service of his larger goal, which is like Mahler's: to create a whole musical world."

The essence of Ives can be devilishly difficult to capture at the best of times...but on a single cd? No way! At least, that's what I thought until this disc went into my cd player - and stayed there, for two complete play-throughs; and there have been more since. Michael Tilson Thomas has managed the impossible: a totally satisfying overview of Ives's genius on one sixty-five minute cd. Songs, symphonies, psalms and tone poems - they're all represented, and imaginatively sequenced as an organic whole - only someone who had an intimate knowledge and understanding of Ives could have made it work as well as this.

The concert divides into four sections: Tilson Thomas begins by reflecting Ives's boyhood memories, then his evocations of landscape, works concerning war, and finally religion. So, we start with the craggy, uncompromising fanfares of From the Steeples and the Mountains; that segues into the aching nostalgia of The Things our Fathers Loved (baritone Thomas Hampson with Tilson Thomas at the piano), and the shimmering reflections of The Pond for chorus and orchestra...before the brilliant, humorous patter of Memories - Hampson breathlessly excited in a childs eyes view of a visit to the opera house.

The brazen confidence of The Circus Band leads us into the cd's centrepiece: Three Places in New England. Then comes the unsettling sequence of war songs, with a stroke of programming genius, the transition from Tom Sails Away into the Fugue from Ives's Fourth Symphony; it sounds as though it was always meant to happen like this. Finally, after the trio of religious pieces, the inevitable ending: how could it be anything other than The Unanswered Question?

Hampson is a piece of perfect casting, the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus sound truly inspired, and the recording is superb, capturing the subtlest soundscapes and the brashest explosions of brass with ease, yet with no loss of impact.

Tilson Thomas has given us the essence of Ives, and as he says in the notes: "Ives emerges as an American musical romantic poet". Dont make the mistake of thinking of this as some kind of 'Best of...' compilation; it isn't, and I'm sure was never intended to be. The title is spot on: this is 'An American Journey' - and if you only have room for one Ives cd in your collection...

Andrew McGregor - presenter of CD Review on Radio 3 --John Armstrong

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

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What a marvellous recording this is. This is no mere edited highlights or "best of" kind of album, it is an illuminating portrait of Charles Ives and what drives his music. The thanks for this go almost solely to Michael Tilson Thomas who devised the programme, which highlights Ives' nostalgia for childhood, a passing era, landscape, wartime and his transendental religious beliefs. The programme is the result of decades of research and devotion to Ives's music.

To those familiar with Ives' better known works there is still plenty to explore here and a chace too to see those familiar works in a new light. Ives is sometimes compared to Mahler for his all encompassing view of music and the similarities are extended here because it is clear that his own songs carried a big influence on such works as his Holidays Symphony, Fourth Symphony and the Orchestral Sets. Song, therefore, and not just borrowed vernacular, shape his symphonic works just as they did for Mahler.

Some of the works come in new arrangements and the democratically minded Ives was not too fussy about that. One that might surprise is the choral finale to the "Three Places in New England". The range and humour of the works on this programme might seem bewildering but there's no mistaking the person behind them. The style may vary from something close to Gilbert and Sullivan ("The Opera House"); cowboy music (Charlie Rutlage) - cowboy music that drifts into expressionism and speech song, as Charlie Rutlage meets his doom; to religious mysticism - "The Unanswered Question" / "From The Steeples to the Mountains" in other places. Rarely does Ives offer easy harmonies - even a Victorian parlour style song is given a polytonal accompaniement.
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Orchestral pieces were excellent; sadly the tenor's vibrato spoilt my enjoyment/discovery of Ive's songs .....
Still- his orchestral writing is inventive and at times great fun; and at other times poignant stuff- so I consider the CD worth the price for those going onto my playlist!
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Ives is as mad as a box of frogs. Superb music from a bipolar point of view. Moments of superb composition plus moments of madness. Wonderful.
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In spite of a huge ammount of music Charles Ives has never really been fashionable.There's no equivalent of Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue or Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.
As a visionary and outside the classical mainstream its a wonder Ives never got any rock star endorsement.Like Frank Zappa with Edgar Varese
Unless Ives used his sources like folk songs or hymns his actual music could be difficult but its worth persevering with.
But nowadays this area of symphonic music is in with a better chance of mass mainstream success when Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello become additions to the catalog
Its all there waiting to explore and this CD is the ultimate sampler
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The quality of the recording is terrible. This is a live CD but engineered completely the wrong way. Pity.

Well, in order to complete the review I have to add more words but all I said is all I have to say.
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