Magazine article Gramophone

Ives

Magazine article Gramophone

Ives

Article excerpt

Ives

'Orchestral Works, Vol 3' Symphonies--No 3, 'The Camp Meeting'; No 4 (a). Orchestral Set No 2 (b) (b) Jean-Efflam Bavouzet pf Melbourne Symphony (ab) Chorus and Orchestra / Sir Andrew Davis Chandos (F) [SACD] CHSA5174 (71' * DDD/DSD)

The first instalment of Andrew Davis's Ives series (5/15), which included the First and Second Symphonies, was generally well received but with a caveat: there is enjoyable music in both works, and some signs in the Second Symphony of what was to come, but neither really tests an orchestra and its leader like the bristling Third Symphony and the sonically sprawling Fourth. There has also been a bit of an Ives boom recently, with fine recordings from Seattle with Ludovic Morlot and, going back a bit further, from Dallas with Andrew Litton.

After a volume of shorter orchestra works (2/16), we have now have the third instalment, and ample proof that Davis is undaunted by the glorious confusion Ives sought to capture in these later works. There is an occasional coolness to his conducting, but this music wants a bit of cooling off now and then. In Morlot's reading of the Fourth Symphony, the piano growls and barks and thunders throughout the thick, Impressionistic textures, while Davis integrates it more elegantly into the fabric. Fortissimos from the Melbourne players are big but not quite as explosive as from other ensembles. And that turns out to be a winning strategy. The Fourth Symphony can be as maddening, dramatically, as the New England landscape is frustrating topographically: one doesn't always see the larger picture, and only upon ascending a peak do you realise that there is another, taller one right behind it.

Davis clarifies that, especially in the second movement of the last symphony, a grand 'comedy' in a dark, ironic vein, which is given an order and drama that it rarely has when the focus is only on building up its layers of densely quilted chaos. …

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