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Steve Schwartz
ClassicalCDReview.com, January 2011

Holidays, newsreels, choir loft, and dear old Yale. This CD brings together several of Ives’s works for large orchestra, from teen-age stuff, to student exercises, to mature scores. We have three of the four movements of Ives’s Holidays Symphony. The first, “Washington’s Birthday,” was, for reasons mysterious, put on another album. Granted, Ives himself was none too persnickety about gathering disparate works together (as in his orchestral “sets”), but since custom has generally placed “Washington’s Birthday” with the other three movements, its exclusion here bothers me.

New England Holidays gets less play than Ives’s four numbered symphonies, but I love it nevertheless, particularly “Decoration Day,” which portrays the march to the cemetery to lay wreaths and flowers on the graves of the Civil War dead to the accompaniment of “Adestes Fideles,” “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” among other tunes. I find this one of Ives’s most beautiful works. It begins in solemn contemplation. Then comes the first march or potpourri of march tunes. The trumpeter blows “Taps” as wisps of “Nearer, My God, to Thee” float about in the strings. Then there’s a raucous quick march back to town. The movement ends in quiet reflection, over in an instant. The piece sort of crumbles in a soft poof! Why that ending? I suspect it’s because the Civil War was still a living memory for many of the celebrants, like us watching a D-Day or a Viet Nam commemoration. People lost family and friends.

Many of Ives’s tone poems are quite pictorial in their procedures, and the other movements follow the same general method. “The Fourth of July” Ives called “a boy’s Fourth”—that is, a day when boys had license to light fireworks and, to some extent, cut loose. Again, we have a slow introduction, but it’s more like the stirrings around daylight. A tuba begins with a fragment of “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” (one of the hits on the Ivesian jukebox) taken at a glacial pace, and other instruments join in with fragments of their own, building excitement. We get the odd firecracker going off at the wrong time. Eventually, marching bands parade past with, again, “Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,“ a full-blown” Columbia, the Gem,” ”Reveille,” and a fife and drum corps practicing, all in the music. The section climaxes on “Columbia, the Gem,” and moves on to a fireworks display. The piece ends in a quiet rain of ash.

“Thanksgiving and Forefather’s Day” has a more serious intent and aims, I think, to transport the listener from the immediate occasion to transcendental musings. It runs significantly longer than any of the other movements. Once more, we begin with a slow meditation, this time a majestic chorale, during which a hymn tune I can’t identify occasionally bubbles to the surface. This gives way to an Ivesian “haze” and then a remarkable middle section based on the hymn “Shining Shore,” in a Thomsonian and Coplandian pastoral treatment decades before the fact. A joyous “revival-tent” passage kicks up its heels, before the return of “Shining Shore.” The music then builds up in a typically Ivesian fashion, founded on the hymn tune Duke Street, which climaxes in a blaze of full orchestra, pealing bells, and full-throated chorus singing “O God, beneath Thy guiding hand” to the Duke Street tune. The piece then fades out on the memory of bells.

The General Slocum and the Yale-Princeton Football Game both commemorate specific events, in a musical tradition that goes back at least to the Renaissance. The General Slocum was a side-wheeler excursion steamboat that in 1904 exploded and burned to the water-line. With over 1,000 people killed, it remained New York City’s worst disaster until the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001. The Yale-Princeton game refers to one of the great Yale football victories (before peasant colleges regularly ate their lunch), when in 1897, Yale All-American quarterback Charles DeSaulles (prior to the days of the legal forward pass) made three spectacular runs, none less than 60 yards. Both pieces are bits of musical reportage. The General Slocum opens with ominous “water music” in the strings, representing the currents of the East River. Boat whistles and foghorns pierce the air. The engines get underway. A steam calliope strikes up a popular waltz. Gradually, the orchestra takes up pop songs like “Sidewalks of New York” on the cornet and quick polkas. The activity grows increasingly frenetic, as the tunes are thrown together at double-speed, like passengers lurching as the catastrophe strikes. There’s a stunned moment and a brief hint of “Nearer, My God, to Thee” before the piece’s quick close.

The Yale-Princeton Football Game may have originated in a piano improvisation. It begins with college marches and songs I don’t know. In fact, I know few college songs, but of the ones I do, most belong to Yale. Indeed, I don’t know even the school song of my own college, which had a music school attached, yet. Between brief sections of musical activity, you get refs’ whistles. One of the amazing features of the piece was a section that used kazoos (missing in Sinclair’s “realization”). Incidentally, can anybody tell me the differences among a “realization,” an “edition,” and an “arrangement?” Youth wants to know.

Both the Overture in g and Postlude in F come from the teenage and the Yale Ives—to some extent, student exercises for his composition professor, the American Wagnerian Horatio Parker. The Overture begins in a bid to impress with High Seriousness. It has its imposing moments, but it still shows student awkwardness as well. After the grand invocation, it moves to a trivial parlor waltz. Indeed, the entire work suffers from weak transitions and juxtapositions. The orchestration, however, sounds professional, with a lot of cues from Tchaikovsky and with Wagner reserved for the grand moments—the avant-garde of the day. The Overture tries for sonata form, and indeed it hits all the marks of sonata-allegro without ever achieving the sonata’s goal of dynamic movement and argument. Ives writes a non-development development and litters the piece with formulaic extensions and transitions. Structurally, the piece is a dull mess. Nevertheless, it contains enough surprises, mainly rhythmic and harmonic, to foreshadow at least the Ives of the First Symphony.

The Postlude in F, written by 15-year-old church organist Ives, I find the more remarkable composition—indeed, one of the most distinguished pieces of American music of its time. Ives thought enough of it to orchestrate it for Parker. It takes a lot from Wagner, particularly from the quieter Wagner of the “Waldrauschen” and the Siegfried-Idyl. It moves much more surely than the Overture. The boy had great talent, early on.

James Sinclair’s performances are okay, even good, but (excepting “Decoration Day”) not particularly exceptional. For some reason, “Decoration Day” brings out the poet in the conductor. I wish they had included “Washington’s Birthday,” but that’s spilt milk. The Swedes fall into the trap of Ives’s thick textures. I used to believe that such foggy playing was inevitable in Ives, until I heard Dohnányi and the Cleveland in the first two orchestral sets. The chorus suffers from the same problem. You can’t understand their diction in the Duke Street hymn. Nevertheless, it’s the program that sells this CD.




David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, April 2010

James Sinclair is always an excellent guide to this music, even through Ives’ most complex textural thickets. The Fourth of July has real celebratory fervor and a sense of fun, while the climax of Thanksgiving, so often a muddle, here achieves real transcendence, with the choir perfectly integrated into the ensemble. I have to confess that I love this piece particularly, even though it’s often considered the weakest part of what would later become the “Holidays” Symphony. I attended Hopkins Grammar in New Haven, as did Ives, and every Christmas the Glee Club gave a concert on the New Haven green at Trinity Church, right next to Center Church at which Ives served as organist. One of the hymns we often sang was “Duke Street”, which forms the climax of Thanksgiving. So it has personal resonance, and it’s also a great tune.

For this reason, and because of the similarities in tone and structure among the other three movements, I see no reason why the movements of “Holidays” should not be enjoyed separately, as they are presented here (the first, Washington’s Birthday, already has been released). Interspersed between the better-known works are some real novelties. First, The General Slocum, a brief portrait of a tragic shipwreck, followed by two student works that sound totally Romantic, and completely unlike Ives: the Overture in G minor, and the Postlude in F. Finally, the Yale-Princeton Football Game, a two-minute riot of a piece that will make any fan of (American) football smile.

As already suggested, Sinclair’s conducting gets everything right: tempos, textures, balances, and colors. He allows Ives’ boisterous high spirits to emerge naturally, effortlessly, and where necessary, raucously. The Malmö orchestra plays all of this music with complete confidence, and the sonics are unaffectedly crisp and clean. An essential release for Ives fans.



Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, March 2010

The New England Holidays Symphony movements will be of special interest to those who bought Sinclair’s excellent recording of “Washington’s Birthday”. They have waited six years for the rest, but it has been worth the wait. This is a revelatory performance. Ives’s work, a paradoxical combination of Yankee innovation and European formality, invites a variety of interpretive approaches. Bernstein’s mid-1960s recording…emphasizes the Yankee—the quirky and irreverent aspects of Ives’s art—and his highlighting of the dissonant undercurrents became the first impressions of this music for many of us. It did not benefit from the scholarship that Sinclair and the several editors of the Charles Ives Society have brought to bear since 1973 on the confusing array of source material. Tilson Thomas’s 1986 traversal with the redoubtable Chicago Symphony…was the first to use the critical edition of the score. His is powerful and coherent Ives, definitely the Horatio Parker-influenced Ives, accentuating the European foundation of his art. Underplaying a bit the irascibility and the humor, it is very attractive, almost comfortable, and in “Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day,” absolutely monumental. Many of us assumed that the change was the result of the scholarship: that Bernstein had Ives wrong. Now here is Sinclair presenting the via media; Ives the iconoclast and Ives the German late Romantic, Ives the dreamer and Ives the master technician, Ives the man of faith and Ives the wry, crusty observer of mankind. Better balanced and more felicitously phrased than Bernstein, more volatile and impertinent than Tilson Thomas, Sinclair makes it all work. Melodic layers are clearly delineated and placed in proper spatial relationship to each other, borrowed tunes are naturally phrased, and dissonances and clashing keys are given due prominence. It hardly gets better than this: the “wild, heroic ride to heaven” Ives’s father inspired him to write…the period popular tunes interrupted by a graphically portrayed explosion are chillingly effective. This is the most speculative work, coming as it does from two surviving pages of sketches, but the style and form achieved by editor David Porter is pure Ives…the Swedish musicians play with precision and warmth here, picking up the idiom as well as did their Northern Sinfonia counterparts in the earlier recording. The sound is good—open and detailed—though the low brass is better balanced in the shorter works than in the Symphony movements. The Malmö Chamber Chorus crowns the last movement of the Holidays Symphony with appropriate fervor…



Gramophone, February 2010

Superbly idiomatic, if incomplete, Ives from the Malmö Symphony

I missed the first release in this Naxos series from Ives champion James Sinclair but the follow-up, this time with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, is first-class in every respect. The current programme does seem a bit fragmented with an incomplete Holidays Symphony—the opening section, “Washington’s Birthday” was on the earlier release. Still, with several of Ives’s finest mature works alongside some intriguing rarities, this disc makes a worthy sampler as well as an enjoyable CD in its own right.

Stravinsky, once asked to define a musical masterpiece, instantly volunteered Ives’s “Decoration Day”. The second movement of the Holidays Symphony is indeed among the American iconoclast’s best and most characteristic works, and here receives a compelling, atmospheric performance, with Sinclair getting the requisite sense of mystery and stoic sadness at the heart of the dark introduction. The central “Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard March” is aptly boisterous with a notably uninhibited bass drum, and the benedictory finale has an almost unearthly haunting quality here, Sinclair drawing exceptionally concentrated playing from the Swedish orchestra.



Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, December 2009

Conductor and Charles Ives (1874–1954) authority James Sinclair has given us a number of highly acclaimed CDs featuring Charlie’s music (see the newsletter of 3 July 2008), including one with the first movement, “Washington’s Birthday,” from his New England Holidays Symphony (1909–14). The remaining three appear on this most recent of Sinclair’s CDs along with a couple of other orchestral rarities recorded here for the first time.

The program begins with the symphony’s second movement, “Decoration Day” (now known as Memorial Day). This is an Ives’ masterpiece with all those stylistic quirks that for many of us make him the greatest American composer to yet come down the pike. It opens with a lovely laid-back impressionistic representation of morning, but hints of old familiar hymn tunes as well as “Taps” begin to emerge. Then a joyous full-fledged march breaks out, only to fade away as the movement ends reverently in memory of the fallen.

Ives scholar David G. Porter, who you may remember did a remarkable reconstruction of Charlie’s Emerson Piano Concerto (1911), is represented here by his performing realizations of The General Slocum (1904) and Overture in G Minor (1899). These world première recordings are not to be missed.

The former work is named for a side-wheeler steamboat that caught fire in 1904, killing over a thousand people. Composed that same year to honor those who died, it opens quietly. Then with a blast from the ship’s whistle one can picture revolving paddle wheels and a boatload of carefree passengers, singing such popular songs as “Daisy Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do,” on an excursion around New York City. Suddenly with a drum roll and dissonant fiery forte passages, joy turns to panic as the ship bursts into flames. These quickly abate, and we’re left with a pianissimo smoke bank drifting over the waters with hints of “Nearer, My God to Thee” (Bethany version). In the space of six minutes Ives says what would take many composers sixty!

The overture was written while Ives was a student at Yale College (1894–1898), and just as in his first two symphonies (1896–1901, see the newsletters of 6 and 20 December 2006), you’ll find echoes of Brahms (1833–1897), Dvorák (1841–1904), Tchaikovsky (1840–1893), and Wagner (1813–1883). There are also occasional chromatic excursions, which must have shocked his conservative, German-trained professor, Horatio Parker (see the newsletters of 18 April 2006). Oddly enough one of the themes [track-3, beginning at 02:02] has a rhythmic signature that somewhat anticipates the opening of Shostakovich’s (1906–1975) first symphony (1923–24).

The third movement of New England Holidays entitled “The Fourth of July” follows. It’s another American masterpiece presented here in a stunning realization by Wayne Shirley, whom some will remember fondly as the imperturbable moderator of the 1950s radio program “Classical Round Table” (WHRB 95.3 FM, Cambridge, Massachusetts). With a subdued impressionistic opening, it works itself up into a pyrotechnical “polyrhythmitonal” frenzy. Then a couple of marching bands are heard playing snatches from “John Brown’s Body,” and of course “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” -- in and out of tune! As the music dies away, senior listeners will be left with melancholy memories of more innocent times.

Those who liked the recent movie Harvard Beats Yale 29–29 (2009) are going to love the next offering, Yale-Princeton Football Game, with our conductor James Sinclair acting as both coach and referee. It was inspired by the legendary 1897 game where the Yale quarterback intercepted a Princeton kick and ran 55 yards for a winning touchdown. Lasting only two and a half minutes, everything’s here including the refs’ whistle, cheering crowds, halftime bands, and maybe even suggestions of a little hip flask tippling.

The next selection, a postlude, was originally written for organ (1889–90) when Charlie was fifteen, and the organist at a church in Danbury, Connecticut. The version presented here was later done at Yale as an orchestration exercise, and what a magnificent job he did even if Wagner and Elgar (1857–1934) are much in evidence. Dynamite dynamics and imaginative instrumentation ensure this sumptuously romantic piece never outstays its welcome.

The concert ends with the fourth movement of the symphony, “Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day.” An earlier organ prelude and postlude were the foundation for this orchestral masterpiece. There’s a structural complexity and density with frequent references to hymn tunes that make it the most profound work here. After a reverential opening, the pace accelerates like a speeding locomotive. It then slows revealing what might be a verdant meadow with church bells tolling in the distance.

A rustic dance breaks out, but quickly ends as pastoral peace once again prevails. However, ominous clouds soon roll in. Suddenly they part, revealing a burst of sunlight as the chorus joins the orchestra in the rousing Thanksgiving hymn “O God Beneath Thy Guiding Hand.” As the singing concludes, the music slowly fades, ending with the sound of those far-off bells. If you know and love Charlie’s fourth symphony (1910–16), you won’t want to be without this gem.

At the time of his death many of Ives’ orchestral works existed only as disjointed, conflicting sketches. And it was only through the dedicated efforts of several American musicologists that we’re now able to hear what Charlie might have finally come up with. In that regard we’re very lucky to have as our conductor James Sinclair, who’s also executive editor of The Charles Ives Society, and has overseen the resuscitation of this music.

Taking all that into consideration, it’s not surprising the performances Sinclair gets from the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, with a little help from the Malmö Chamber Choir in the final selection, are superb. Considering all the scholarship that went into the preparation of these performing versions, they’ll probably remain the most definitive on disc for some time to come.

Done in 2007 and 2008 at the same location, all these recordings are agreeably homogeneous and spread across a wide soundstage. Impressive dynamics and an extended frequency range are engendered by Ives’ imaginative scoring. The highs are for the most part listener friendly with only a hint of graininess. The bass, particularly that emanating from the percussion section, is deep but lingers. Bottom line, it’s the music rather than the sound that makes this CD indispensable.



The Big City, December 2009

IVES, C.: Holidays Symphony (excerpts) / The General Slocum / Overture in G minor (Malmo Symphony, Sinclair) 8.559370
WEBERN, A.: Vocal and Orchestral Works - 5 Pieces / 5 Sacred Songs / Variations / Bach-Musical Offering: Ricercar (Craft) (Webern, Vol. 2) 8.557531
MOE, E.: Strange Exclaiming Music / Teeth of the Sea / Rough Winds Do Shake the Darling Buds / I Have Only One Itching Desire / Market Forces 8.559612

The title says ‘best of,’ but this is more like favorite music of the year, recordings that sound great and excite and please first and last. No matter the analysis or exploration of meaning, this is my list of music that I went back to again and again, just to listen to and enjoy in 2009:

It was a good year for René Jacobs, with a notable recording of Idomeneo. What I love more, though, is his new release of Haydn’s The Creation. His partnership with the Freiburger Barockorchester is one of the most exciting things in classical music today. The sound they have developed together seems the point and culmination of decades of exploring the idea of how baroque and classical music was heard when it was brand new; the sinewy, tart ensemble seems a direct expression of both conductor and the music they perform. This set grabs the attention with the best imaginable conveyance of Haydn’s representation of order forming out of chaos; every other recording I have heard presents the music as a structure coming together out of smaller fragments, and to that Jacobs adds the very idea of sound cohering out of chaos. I’ve heard no other music like this, of any kind. As usual he adds a group of stellar singers, Julia Kleiter, Maximilian Schmitt and Johannes Weisser. A fantastic recording. Here’s a sample:

Naxos puts out a vast amount of high quality music, and even at the budget price still produces recordings that are as good as they come. The company would be welcome if all they were doing was recording the standard classical repertoire, but they are important because their ambitions are greater than that. Two of their current projects are the recording of the music of Anton von Webern under the eminent conductor Robert Craft, and their tremendous American Classics series, which seeks to present, in the broadest sense, the classical music history of this country—past, present and future—and is so far succeeding beyond expectations. The second volume of Webern’s music was released this year, and features Craft leading the composer’s crystalline orchestration of Bach’s Ricercata, the Op. 5 Five Movements for String Orchestra and the great Five Pieces for Orchestra (Op. 10) and Variations (Op. 30), along with vocal and choral music. Webern was a great composer, his atonality exceedingly lyrical and beguiling, and these performances are beautiful and expressive, demanding attention.

American music means, inevitably, Charles Ives, and Naxos have already produced an extensive body of recordings of the composer, featuring rare and previously unrecorded works. All of these have been good to excellent, and their new Ives recording is their best yet and one of the best CDs of the composer’s music I’ve encountered. James Sinclair leads the Malmo Symphony and Chamber Chorus in three of the four tones poems that later made up the Holidays Symphony, interspersed with shorter works, including an interesting Overture in G Minor from the days when Ives was enthralled to Brahms and The General Slocum, a Central Park In The Dark type piece based around ‘The Sidewalks of New York.’ The Holidays movements are the finest expressions of his ideas and work and these performances are tremendous, played with the combination of great tenderness and revelry in chaos which this music requires and which is so very hard to balance. From beginning to end the performances bring for the mystic chords of memory and the choral entry and singing on the last track, ‘Thanksgiving and Forefathers Day,’ is stunning and incredibly moving.

More recent is a collection of music from Eric Moe, Strange Exclaiming Music, works for violin, saxophone and percussion. Moe has the sensibility and craft to write rigorous, serious music which communicates clearly to the listener with verve and fervor. The title piece is a violin sonata which acknowledges a tradition from Beethoven to John Adams, with an appealing gravity and rhythmic vitality. There’s an appreciation for the physical quality of rhythm that Stravinsky captured and a very American sense of lyricism coupled with a tough, determined stance. Everything sounds great, and this is not just an excellent introduction to the composer but a purely excellent disc in its own right.



Gapplegate Music Review, November 2009

Sinclair’s renditions are some of the best on record. He lets the idiomatic quotations shine forth with gusto and a certain Victorian naivety, his largo passages are both mystical and pastoral, and the cacophonous huzzahs of anarchic sound clashes are breathtakingly vital.

This is Ives interpretation at its best!




Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, November 2009

“Once when Igor Stravinsky was asked how he would define a ‘masterpiece’ in music, he defined it with ‘Decoration Day,’ the 1912–13 tone poem by Charles Ives” that eventually became part of “Holiday Symphony,” says Jan Swafford in his notes to this disc. Ives’ polytonal collages still sound contemporary and original almost a full century later. Three of the four constituent parts of Ives’ holiday symphony are here. While Sinclair can be (and has been) a great conductor of Ives on disc, neither the Malmö Symphony nor the recorded sound of this disc are really altogether adequate for the demands of the music. The disc, then, is functional…



Joshua Meggitt
Cyclic Defrost, November 2009

Insurance agent by day, arch-modernist by night, Charles Ives’ idiosyncratic, cacophonous works are some of the most exciting and influential of the twentieth, and indeed late 19th, centuries. From songs to string quartets to large orchestral works, Ives’s music veers from the lushly romantic to the aggressively contemporary, his restless inventiveness evident in everything he wrote. Ives was particularly interested in, and successful at, marrying popular, particularly American, musical styles—hymns, jazz and celebratory brass band music—with classical structures, something this set of lesser known pieces for orchestra displays in abundance.

The three movements of New England Holidays Symphony show Ives at his exuberant best: chaotically jubilant sketches of carnivalesque joy and abandon. Stravinsky hailed ‘Decoration Day’ as the definitive musical masterpiece: based on Decoration Day ceremonies experienced in his youth, Ives transforms memories of his father’s marching band playing dirges into a riotous dream-like narrative, recognisable tunes clashing with the crazed noise of the crowd. ‘The General Slocum’ comes under Ives’s ‘Cartoons and Take Offs’ genre, or ‘literal’ depictions of events, in this case the explosion of the titular ship in which over 1000 people were killed. Here we’re in almost hauntological territory, as melodies from popular ditties of the time wash against the ominous throb of the waves, recalling The Caretaker and Gavin Bryars’s ‘Sinking of the Titanic’, before disaster strikes in the form of teeth-gnashing dissonance. The other descriptive piece, ‘Yale-Princeton Football Game’, opts for light-hearted jollity, portraying the activities both on and off the pitch of the famous 1897 match through wild piano improvisations, whistles and camp woodwind bleets. The performances are incredibly vibrant, the recording lush, and the cover art, a reproduction of a painting by Ives’s grandnephew James Bigalow Hall, captures the beautiful madness of Ives’s music perfectly.



Chris Hathaway
88.7 KUHF News, November 2009

Charles Ives’ Holidays symphony has been a familiar piece, light-years ahead of its time (roughly composed between 1913 or thereabout and the mid-1920s), employing elements of atonality and with several metrically unrelated pieces of music going on at the same time (requiring, more often than not, the services of more than one conductor). Decoration Day, which Igor Stravinsky termed a masterpiece, is described as being edited by James Sinclair, the conductor on this disc; The Fourth of July, which begins and ends atonally (with the famous sound collages emulating several marching bands playing unrelated music at the same time), is credited as a “realization by W. Shirley”) and Thanksgiving as “edited by K. Elkus”. I am not sure if simplification has entered the picture, as in Harold Farberman’s one-conductor version of the at-times multirhythmic Fourth Symphony of forty years ago. At times, the clarification of Ives’ endemically messy textures in The Fourth of July provokes a mixed response: one is grateful to hear the piece, ostensibly the same as in, say, Leonard Bernstein’s old recording, in a different light—but the messy textures, a hallmark of Ives’ works in a more or less late Romantic style as well as of his atonal music, are part of the charm of an unabashedly eccentric and defiantly creative painter of musical landscapes.

Heard for the first time are Ives’ Overture in g minor, probably composed under the supervision of Horatio W. Parker while a student at Yale; the highly evocative, and highly dissonant, symphonic poem The General Slocum, commemorating a 1904 explosion aboard an excursion boat in which over a thousand people perished. There are quotes from what sounds like popular dance tunes of the day, not recognizable to this reviewer. Sinclair, executive editor of the Charles Ives Society, which has brought out several hitherto-unpublished works by the American icon, serves Ives handsomely in this recording. The Postlude in F, edited by one K. Singleton, was originally an organ work of the composer’s teenage years. This recording is highly recommended.



Icon, November 2009

Ives was versed in the Western European classical tradition, but his music is purely American, integrating bits of hymns, folk melodies, pop tunes of the day, etc. While Ives superficially sounds gosh-darn cord-fed all-American (think the Simpsons’s Flanders or Matt Damon’s Informant!), it’s a lot more. Along with the spectacular, gallant fiber of John Williams’s Star Wars soundtracks, there are turbulences like coiled rattlesnakes, dissonances wry and pointed like Frank Zappa at his jolliest.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2009

Already accepted as benchmark performances, the fourth release in this new complete cycle of Charles Ives’ orchestral works includes two world premiere recordings. Reluctant to follow convention during his mature career, he avoided composing symphonies until persuaded to use four tone poems, Washington’s Birthday, Decoration Day, The Fourth of July and Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day, to form the New England Holidays Symphony. The four pictures are typical of the extrovert Ives who paid scant regard to musical shape or content, simply composing as ideas came into his mind. For the first of the two premiers we return to student days and his weekly homework in the shape of a Brahms-Schumann inspired Overture in G minor, the result showing a receptive student. Move forward in time to 1904 when he was thirty and he is graphically picturing the tragic events when a packed pleasure steamer, The General Slocum, exploded as popular dance music was being played on deck, the most unholy orchestral outburst relating the boilers as they explode. Complete with referee whistles, we have a graphic picture of the American football match between two arch rivals, Yale and Princeton. Completing the disc is an orchestration of the organ Postlude in F written in his teenage years. Why the famous Ives authority, James Sinclair, has chosen to separate the movements of the Holidays Symphony is not clear in the accompanying booklet, and maybe Naxos will issue them complete with Washington’s Birthday that was contained in an earlier volume. What is abundantly clear is the degree of preparation invested in such detailed performances from the superb Malmo Symphony. It relishes the pure virtuosity and plays those quirky moments with gay abandon. The recording has a wide dynamic range, so set the volume level high and hope the neighbours don’t object.



James Leonard
Allmusic.com, November 2009

For the most hard core fans of Charles Ives, this Naxos disc by James Sinclair and the Malmö Symphony will be attractive because it contains several never before recorded pieces and several other rarely recorded pieces. Among the never before recorded works are The General Slocum, a musical depiction of a maritime disaster, and the Overture in G minor. Among the rarely recorded works is The Yale-Princeton Football Game.






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