Sir Andrew Davis and the MSO continue their Chandos series of orchestral works by American modernist Charles Ives (1874-1954). Volume 3 includes the Third and Fourth Symphonies, and Orchestral Set No 2, a three-part programmatic work not performed until 1967, a decade after Ives’ death.
America’s most musical insurance salesman was fascinated with traditional hymns and songs while conducting audacious forays into polyrhythms, dissonance, atonality, quarter-tones and other techniques that were to become staples of 20th-century experimentalism. All are in evidence in Symphony No 3, lost for decades after Gustav Mahler made off with one of only two extant copies: it was finally performed in 1946 and won the Pulitzer Prize.
Ives’ ambiguous and complex scores confounded his editors, particularly the notorious Symphony No 4, which is accompanied by 40 pages of explanatory notes. Its requirements include chorus, a ‘distant choir’ of five violins and harp, saxophones, three pianos – one solo (performed here by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet), one played by duetting pianists, and a third tuned in quarter tones – celeste, organ, and an ‘ether organ,’ thought to be a device used to play multiple theremins simultaneously.
These extraordinarily complex compositional visions and sonic enormities are splendidly served by expansive Super Audio. Comprehensive notes complete this essential package of enthralling 20th-century works.