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Andrew Druckenbrod
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 2003

"Working at the turn of the past century, Ives fit the American persona to the hilt, combining patriotic music, popular tunes and college songs into an unorthodox style that thumbed its nose at European conventions -- much written while he was an insurance executive in New England! Symphony No. 2's sinewy music incorporates tunes such as 'Columbia, Gem of the Ocean' and 'Camptown Races.' Critic's Pick"

Peter Dickinson
Gramophone, January 2002

'Critics' Choice.'

James H. North
Fanfare, November 2001

The Nashville Symphony has produced a marvelous Ives disc...thank you again Naxos.

William Littler
Toronto Star, June 2001

Once thoroughly overshadowed by Carpenter and MacDowell, Charles Ives (1874 - 1954) now towers over both his near-contemporaries as a musician of true originality . And if ever a score deserved to be included in Naxos' American Classics series it is Ives' quotation-filled, joyously extroverted Symphony No. 2. The particular value of this recording lies in its use of Jonathan Eklus' authoritative Ives Society edition of the score, correcting nearly a thousand errors compromising the flawed edition Leonard Bernstein used in his pioneer recording. Conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn also turns valuably to Elkus' edition of the experimental Robert Browning Overture, revealing many new details in dynamics and rhythm. In the wake of such performances, the older recordings of Ives' music are beginning to sound less and less definitive.

Sensible Sound, May 2001

"It is nice to have this music available at a budget price, and both performance and recording quality are truly excellent. Whether you are a long-time Ives fan or rather a music fan curious about this iconoclastic composer, this CD represents an excellent bargain."

Stephen Francis
Vasta Time Out New York, February 2001

"The Second Symphony, with its generous dose of American song quotes, is a good introduction to Charles Ives' eclectically dissonant style and a strong vehicle for the Nashville Symphony's commercial recording debut. The recording produces bright, forward detail¡KOverall, Schermerhorn leads a lively and atmospheric performance."

James H. North)
Fanfare, February 2001

"To my ears, Elkus's edition is far preferable to previous ones; he manages to make many pages sound less awkward than in the Cowell edition without dimming Ives's brilliance. The new score is not yet published, but Professor Elkus was kind enough to send me copies of his e-mails to conductor Schermerhorn, detailing and explaining the changes. Many hundreds of changes are markings on a note-by-note basis, which have an overall effect but may not draw the listener's immediate attention. But several will certainly do so. The inclusion of an exposition repeat in the second movement, with its transitional passage, repairs a dysfunction in that movement's harmonic logic. Tempos in movements two and five now correspond to Ives's intentions; Bernstein had made the identical change in the initial metronome indication of the finale but had not known of the other tempo errors. Ð trumpets " that produce the clear, intense timbre that Ives envisioned" (Elkus) are specified for the second movement. One might equate the progression Cowell-Goldstein Elkus to computer noise-suppression programs: Today's versions quiet the background of historical recordings without sacrificing nearly so much music as did earlier programs.

"This new recording radiates the spirit of Ives, even though the orchestra cannot hold a candle to either the Concertgebouw or the New York Philharmonic. And there's the rub. Schermerhorn's performance is a cautious one; despite indications of quicker allegros in the new edition, his are often not up to those of Bernstein or Thomas. On the other hand, Schermerhorn's Andante cantabile and Lento maestoso movements are faster than Bernstein's. I sense that these cautious tempos are in deference to the orchestra, to avoid too great a challenge, an impression bolstered by the Nashville Symphony's recent Carnegie hall performance, where the finale went much faster but the playing became quite sloppy. Although the panache of the New York woodwinds is missed, there is much that is fine in Nashville: A slightly smaller string section is luminous, and the first-horn solos that dominate the finale are superb, at least the equal of any other recording. The clean score, careful playing, and fine, modern, digital recorded sound combine to produce a sweet, fresh account of Ives's symphony, one that complements Bernstein's 1958 recording. Both are essential for the Ives enthusiast, and I do not hesitate to recommend this new disc to anyone coming to Ives for the first time.

"The filler caps the argument for Naxos: The Robert Browning Overture is Ives's longest single span of music and is more representative of his musical vision than the Second Symphony. A late work (1908 - 12), it is advanced and difficult even for Ives, although he later dislike it for being obvious in its techniques. There have been perhaps half a dozen recordings, including a magical one by Leopold Stokowski - whose own muysticism matched up neatly with Ives's - and an unconvincing performance by Morton Gould. This Naxoas disc is also a first recording of a new Elkus edition, which not only corrects many errors in the 1959 published score but makes use of sketches that have come to light since then. A missed deadline keeps me from pursuing details with Elkus, but a first aural impression is of less mystery and more musical logic; Elkus writes that he "clarifies dynamic terraces, establishes rhythmic proportions...." The Nashville Orchestra again distinguishes itself. I suspect that most of the lost mystery was Stokowski rather than Ives. In any case, this may be the only available recording f this fascinating work.

"A line in Elkus's program notes to this disc referring to "Ives's disappointment when he finally heard Bernstein's performance ten days later on the radio..." necessitates a postscript. Henry and Sidney Cowell reported that Ives heard the broadcast on his maid's radio and "emerged form the kitchen doing an awkward little jig of pleasure and vindication." That story stood unchallenged for 14 years between the first and second editions of Charles Ives and His Music. The matter is complicated, and Ives's true feelings may never be known. Sidney Cowell told Jonathan Elkus a few years before her death that she did not alter anything in the second edition that had come "as received information from either of the Iveses" (Elkus, in a private communication). The "maid" in question was Louemily Ryder, a next-door neighbor in West Redding who sometimes helped out at their house. In a 1969 interview, reported in Vivian Perlis's 1974 Charles Ives Remembered, Ryder says that Mr. and Mrs. Ives heard the broadcast at her home, and that he sat quietly through the performance; "after it was over, I'm sure he was very much moved. He stood up, walked over the fireplace, and spat! And then he walked out into the kitchen. Not a word." In Charles Ives and His America (1975), Frank Rossiter states that "obviously pleased by the performance, he was not yet too overawed to inform Bernstein (through his wife's letter of appreciation) that the allegro movements had been 'too slow'." The latest word may be by Jan Swafford, who writes in the 1996 Charles Ives: A Life with Music: "Nobody could figure out whether he was too disgusted or too moved to talk. Likely it was the latter."

David Hurwitz, September 2000


"This recording represents, in effect, a second premiere of Charles Ives' Symphony No. 2, some four decades after Leonard Bernstein's path-breaking recording... Why premiere? Because Kenneth Schermerhorn and his excellent Nashville band play Jonathan Elkus' critical edition, prepared on behalf of the Ives Society. This new score supplants the previous "critical edition" edited by Malcolm Goldstein for inclusion in Michael Tilson Thomas' complete symphony cycle. The Society's president (and future conductor of several volumes in this ongoing series), James B. Sinclair explained to me recently that Goldstein's score represented an interim version of the work created in response to a practical need for a comparatively clean score and performance materials. The real musicological job of eliminating thousands of errors, collating and evaluating sources, and deciphering Ives' text has only just been completed, with impressive results that you can hear for yourself.

"How then does this version differ from previous incarnations of the symphony? The principal corrections not surprisingly concern tempo, but also pertain to dynamics and orchestration. In the second movement, the second subject (based on the tune "Where Oh Where are the Pea-green Freshmen?") now trips along in tempo, and the exposition repeat has been restored. Not having both scores available for comparison, it also seems that a lot of woodwind detail has been clarified and rhythmic definition sharpened, though this may to some extent stem from Schermerhorn's superb conducting and the orchestra's really outstanding playing. The finale also benefits from a longer, slower build to the final wacky appearance of "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean", and it has acquired a triangle part alongside some other modifications in instrumentation. In general, the entire score sounds cleaner and clearer, closer to the Ives of the Third Symphony--more continuous, and therefore funnier because its discontinuities appear more purposeful. I mean, who else would create a principal theme, as Ives does in his second movement, out of the tune "Wake Nicodemus" married to a chromatic sequence straight out of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde (check out Act II, Scene 2, Tristan's speech beginning with the words "Was dich umgliss...")?

"The Robert Browning Overture, one of Ives' most intractable pieces, also comes off sounding fresher and more coherent than ever before. Its dissonant, densely scored march sections grind along with a purposeful tread that almost brings to mind Carl Ruggles' similarly Browning-inspired masterpiece Sun-treader. Again, much of the credit must go to orchestra and conductor. They play both works with complete confidence and unflinching directness. In the symphony, it's obvious that they have their tongues firmly in their cheeks, and the results couldn't possibly be more enjoyable. Coming hot on the heels of their sensational Hanson CD, this partnership looks to be the American music happening of the new millennium. Bravo!"

Dan Davis

"Don't let the budget label, little-known conductor, and regional orchestra fool you--here's an outstanding disc of important music, brilliantly interpreted and played. Even if you have the grand, but cut, old Leonard Bernstein performance of the symphony on Sony, this one's different. Naxos uses a new critical edition replete with changes in tempo, dynamics, and orchestration. The symphony may be the funniest in the repertory, flinging wildly disparate folk and pop tunes together in imaginative ways that defy rhyme or reason, yet make perfect sense in the context of Ives's innovative soundworld. The Robert Browning Overture is no mere curtain-raiser, but one of Ives's toughest works, moving from a mysterious opening in the strings to braying brass and pounding drums. This is one of the best releases in Naxos's outstanding American Classics series. Don't miss it."

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