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 Post subject: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 12:16 pm 
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Here is a work that is from that 20th century iconoclast Charles Ives from Conn. U.S.A which is extremely accessible to lovers of Brahms and Dvorak.

From Wikipedia:

"Scoring

The piece is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, snare drum, bass drum and strings.

Andante moderato
Allegro
Adagio cantabile
Lento maestoso
Allegro molto vivace

The piece departs from the conventional four-movement symphonic structure, which has been modified by the insertion of the Lento maestoso as an introduction to the Allegro molto vivace. Unusually among the classics, Schumann's 'Rhenish' symphony also has an "additional" slow movement in fourth place.
History and Analysis

Although the work was composed during Ives' twenties, it was half a century before it premiered, in a 1951 New York Philharmonic concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein. The symphony premiered to rapturous applause but Ives responded with ambivalence. Indeed, he did not even attend the concert in person but had to be dragged by family and friends to a neighbor's house to listen to the live radio broadcast. The public performance had been postponed for so long because Ives had been alienated from the American classical establishment. Ever since his training with Horatio Parker at Yale, Ives had suffered their disapproval of the mischievous unorthodoxy with which he radically pushed the boundaries of European classical structures to create soundscapes that recalled the vernacular music-making of his New England upbringing.

Like Ives' other compositions which honor the European and American inheritances, the Second Symphony never makes verbatim quotation of popular American tunes such as "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean", "Camptown Races", "Long, Long Ago", and "America the Beautiful", but reshapes and develops them into broad themes. There is a subdued version of the opening notes of Beethoven's fifth symphony and a rescoring of part of Brahms' first symphony, as well as a reference (early in the first movement) to the chorales of Johann Sebastian Bach. The work is an interesting precedent to another significant piece of the 20th century, Luciano Berio's Sinfonia which was composed about 65 years later. Ives' 5th movement uses quotation techniques comparable to Berio's in his 3rd movement.

Bernstein's premiere and subsequent interpretations were later widely criticized for taking extravagant liberties with the score.[1] Although the 1951 score itself contained about a thousand errors, Bernstein reportedly also made a substantial cut to the finale, ignored Ives' tempo indications, and prolonged the terminating "Bronx cheer" discord. Many conductors and audiences, influenced by Bernstein's example, have enthusiastically considered the last of these practices one of the trademarks of the piece. In 2000, the Charles Ives Society prepared an official critical edition of the score and authorized a recording by Kenneth Schermerhorn and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra to adhere more closely to Ives' intentions.
Recordings

Although the world premiere performance was later issued on CD, the first studio recording was made by F. Charles Adler with the Vienna Philharmonia Orchestra in February 1953.[2] Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic recorded the work in stereo and mono versions for Columbia Records on October 6, 1958.[3] Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded the symphony for RCA Victor on February 7, 1973, in a multi-channel version later issued on CD with Dolby Surround Sound encoding.[4] Bernard Herrmann, another long-time champion of Ives's music, recorded the work with the London Symphony Orchestra in Decca/London's 'Phase 4 Stereo' on 4 January 1972. He had given the UK Premiere of Ives's 2nd Symphony in a BBC radio broadcast with the same orchestra on 25 April 1956, a historic performance that has now been released on CD by Pristine Audio."

In fact Ives first three symphonies are all very tonal and easily assimilated. It is the polyphonic and poly-tonal Fourth Symphony where his later style is manifest.

In my opinion Leonard Bernstein the conductor of the world premier was the greatest interpreter of the Second Symphony even with his distension of the Bronx cheer last chord.


Here are links to Bernstein's version with the BRSO on YT:





Here is very detailed analysis of the symphony:

http://peermusicclassical.com/Ives_Preface.htm


Here is Bernstein's lecture on the Ives Second:


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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 6:45 pm 
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Thanks for the new topic Digiti. I've been having problems getting access to the forum and with internet access generally but I'll be viewing the vids soon no doubt.

Your link to the lecture was invalid so I placed somehing I found in it's place. Not sure if it is what you had in mind though.

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 8:07 pm 
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Rod Corkin wrote:
Thanks for the new topic Digiti. I've been having problems getting access to the forum and with internet access generally but I'll be viewing the vids soon no doubt.

Your link to the lecture was invalid so I placed somehing I found in it's place. Not sure if it is what you had in mind though.



Rod,

Yes that is the Bernstein lecture I had tried link to my post. I also had trouble today getting to the forum with my internet connection.

Thanks I hope you find my topic of interest.

Best Regards,

Digiti[Bob]

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2012 8:41 pm 
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Digiti wrote:
Bernstein's premiere and subsequent interpretations were later widely criticized for taking extravagant liberties with the score.[1] Although the 1951 score itself contained about a thousand errors, Bernstein reportedly also made a substantial cut to the finale, ignored Ives' tempo indications...

I've just been listening to the first two videos. I'll reserve comment on the actual material until I've gone through it all (though I state in advance the appearance of snare drums in a symphonic scoring is for me an instant downer!), but the highlighted quote above concurred with something that came to mind - under B's direction the first two movements sound like one long moderato movement. Where did he switch to Allegro in that!?

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2012 9:45 pm 
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Rod Corkin wrote:
I've just been listening to the first two videos. I'll reserve comment on the actual material until I've gone through it all (though I state in advance the appearance of snare drums in a symphonic scoring is for me an instant downer!), but the highlighted quote above concurred with something that came to mind - under B's direction the first two movements sound like one long moderato movement. Where did he switch to Allegro in that!"


Here are some timings from the last Bernstein DGG recording to get some idea of where the movement transitions occur:


1.Andante moderato 6min.16sec

2.Allegro 11min.06sec

3.Adagio cantabile 11min.41sec

4.Lento maestoso 3min.05sec.

5.Allegro molto vivace 10min.05sec
[there is da capo section that is sometimes omitted here]

I know you hate the snare drum but it is used in Mahler,Shostakovich,Tchaikovsky among others and in this case as a simulation of the marching band music of Ives's time. The big fugato section at the end of the last movement is great fun but will probably not be to your liking to say the least.
I have three versions of the symphony on CD: Michael Tilson Thomas RCOA using the revised score, Ormandy Phil Orch and the above mentioned Bernstein NY.Phil. plus the DVD of the youtube Bernstein; the differences are not that significant between them so take that Wikipedia criticism of the liberties taken by Bernstein with the score with of grain of salt.

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2012 5:40 pm 
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Digiti wrote:
Here are some timings from the last Bernstein DGG recording to get some idea of where the movement transitions occur:


1.Andante moderato 6min.16sec

2.Allegro 11min.06sec

3.Adagio cantabile 11min.41sec

4.Lento maestoso 3min.05sec.

5.Allegro molto vivace 10min.05sec
[there is da capo section that is sometimes omitted here]

Thanks for your timings but I think you missed my point - I asked, somewhat sarcastically, where does he switch tempo to allegro? The answer to my ears is that he doesn't switch! Hence the quote above about Bernstein ignoring Ives' tempi became pertinent upon hearing the above performance.

Digiti wrote:
I know you hate the snare drum but it is used in Mahler,Shostakovich,Tchaikovsky among others and in this case as a simulation of the marching band music of Ives's time. The big fugato section at the end of the last movement is great fun but will probably not be to your liking to say the least.
I have three versions of the symphony on CD: Michael Tilson Thomas RCOA using the revised score, Ormandy Phil Orch and the above mentioned Bernstein NY.Phil. plus the DVD of the youtube Bernstein; the differences are not that significant between them so take that Wikipedia criticism of the liberties taken by Bernstein with the score with of grain of salt.

Why I wonder would TMT be averse to a fugato..? I'll let you know if you are correct in due course!

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2012 4:26 pm 
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Rod Corkin wrote:
Why I wonder would TMT be averse to a fugato..? I'll let you know if you are correct in due course!

Well the only problem I have with the last movement is the frequent references to popular tunes which turns the piece into something of a pastiche. Sometimes coming rather too close to 'verbatim' thinking of the Wiki comment above. Too many themes used in this symphony really, makes it seem incoherent to ears used to more tidy constructions. If you have good thematic material you don't need so much of it, which makes me think Ives was uncertain of himself - e.g. when in doubt you know 'Camptown Races' will always send the audience home with a smile. Or perhaps he simply had a genuine affection for these borrowed tunes and couldn't help himself, but either way I find it difficult to classify this piece as a symphony in the traditional sense.

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2012 7:27 pm 
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Rod Corkin wrote:
"Well the only problem I have with the last movement is the frequent references to popular tunes which turns the piece into something of a pastiche. Sometimes coming rather too close to 'verbatim' thinking of the Wiki comment above. Too many themes used in this symphony really, makes it seem incoherent to ears used to more tidy constructions. If you have good thematic material you don't need so much of it, which makes me think Ives was uncertain of himself - e.g. when in doubt you know 'Camptown Races' will always send the audience home with a smile. Or perhaps he simply had a genuine affection for these borrowed tunes and couldn't help himself, but either way I find it difficult to classify this piece as a symphony in the traditional sense."

You are right in calling this movement a pastiche with very slimly veiled quotations from American hymns but that is the point of this "American Primitive" as Bernstein calls him in his lecture. I find the piece to be aesthetically pleasing just as absolute music even with those American folk tunes woven into its fabric.What did you think of that last chord?

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2012 8:00 pm 
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Digiti wrote:
...What did you think of that last chord?

I'm afraid it did not meet with much approval up here on Olympus. Or perhaps it was Bernstein's interpretation? :D

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 6:07 pm 
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Digiti wrote:
What did you think of that last chord?

And what do you think of it?

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 7:23 pm 
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When I first heard this symphony in 1960's that chord came a shock after the tonality of all that came before. That dissonant chord was I think Ives's joke on the listener just like Haydn using a forte chord in the second movement of his "Surprise Symphony" #94 or the violins tuning during the last movement of the "Il Distratto" symphony #60.

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 7:07 pm 
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Digiti wrote:
When I first heard this symphony in 1960's that chord came a shock after the tonality of all that came before. That dissonant chord was I think Ives's joke on the listener just like Haydn using a forte chord in the second movement of his "Surprise Symphony" #94 or the violins tuning during the last movement of the "Il Distratto" symphony #60.

Well I think the chord is rather less tuneful than Haydn's and equally less in tune with what went before. It didn't come across to me as a musical joke but more simply an unpleasant noise bizarrely appended to the end of the movement. Perhaps it was Bernstein's delivery, if the chord was shorter and sharper the effect might be improved.

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 8:52 pm 
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Rod Corkin wrote:
Digiti wrote:
When I first heard this symphony in 1960's that chord came a shock after the tonality of all that came before. That dissonant chord was I think Ives's joke on the listener just like Haydn using a forte chord in the second movement of his "Surprise Symphony" #94 or the violins tuning during the last movement of the "Il Distratto" symphony #60.

Well I think the chord is rather less tuneful than Haydn's and equally less in tune with what went before. It didn't come across to me as a musical joke but more simply an unpleasant noise bizarrely appended to the end of the movement. Perhaps it was Bernstein's delivery, if the chord was shorter and sharper the effect might be improved.


Rod,

The chord is not meant to be tuneful at all but a chord that is totally alien from the usual dominant-tonic final cadence that is expected. Ives is being trying to be provocative here. That chord is the same or very similar in other performances I have on CD so it is not just an aberration of Bernstein's interpretation. You have to remember that Ives was working with the dissonance of polytonality before Webern and Schoenberg in Europe, This final chord could act as a prelude to his later works including the Fourth Symphony that requires two conductors! I said at he beginning of my discussion that this is an accessible work but those later works are far removed from what is here and I am sure they will not be to your liking either. I have my own difficulties with those works as well because my taste is grounded in tonality.

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 9:26 pm 
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Digiti wrote:
Rod,

The chord is not meant to be tuneful at all but a chord that is totally alien from the usual dominant-tonic final cadence that is expected. Ives is being trying to be provocative here. That chord is the same or very similar in other performances I have on CD so it is not just an aberration of Bernstein's interpretation. You have to remember that Ives was working with the dissonance of polytonality before Webern and Schoenberg in Europe, This final chord could act as a prelude to his later works including the Fourth Symphony that requires two conductors! I said at he beginning of my discussion that this is an accessible work but those later works are far removed from what is here and I am sure they will not be to your liking either. I have my own difficulties with those works as well because my taste is grounded in tonality.

I know this is not a tuneful chord, but you can't just do something totally random and expect people to think you are clever or radical simply because it is beyond the norm. The symphony as a whole I would fit towards the 'easy listening' end of the CM spectrum, so any attempt by Ives to be provocative here seems to me at best naïve and at worst pretentious.

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 Post subject: Re: Charles Ives Second Symphony
PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2012 8:15 pm 
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I was reminded of Mozart's Musical Joke by the final chord. I have to agree with Rod that it's a bit strange and a bit pointless.

Adam


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