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  Hyperion -
  Ives: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 - Litton
  Charles Ives: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3, General William Booth enters into Heaven

Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Litton (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 7 show all

Reviews: 3

Review by seth January 30, 2007 (6 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Ives' 2nd Symphony is one of those superb symphonies that few people are familiar with, and could be a regular staple of the repertoire if more people heard it. This is no doubt due to the general apprehension audiences have towards Ives because of his musical experiments with tonality, polyphony, etc. The 2nd symphony is neo-romantic, modeled after the symphonies of Brahms and Dvorák, and even Tchaikovsky to a degree (closets to his 4th). At the same time, it is filled with Ives' usual rich counterpoint, wit, and sense of humor. So it's quite accessible; there's nothing to fear.

Even though it was mostly completed by 1902, the Symphony was not premiered until 1951 by Leonard Bernstein. Now here's were the trouble begins. Despite being a champion of his music, Ives was disappointed with the performance Bernstein gave. Besides using a score the featured numerous errors, Bernstein made cuts, disregarded tempo markings, and added all kinds of personal touches. Since '51, conductors have pretty much emulated Bernstein when it comes to the 2nd Symphony. In 2000 Kenneth Schermerhorn and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra premiered a new critical edition of the score that not only fixed nearly 1000 errors, but excised the Bernstein touches. Unfortunately, Litton ignores the achievements of this new edition and chooses to emulate Bernstein.

Litton and Dallas give a high-octane energetic performance that will make an Ives lover out of anyone. The sheer energy of the performance equals, if not rivals Bernstein's two versions, especially in the finale. But in the midst of their exuberance, the balance is generally off -- the strings and brass eat up the woodwinds. That, combined with the breakneck tempos, cover up some of Ives' glorious counterpoint. The final dissonant chord is held longer than indicated, a touch Bernstein added which was not in the '51 score. I personally find the abrupt ending, as Ives intended, to be much more effective. Holding it long actually deflates its shock value and abruptness. The proper length is like getting hit by a car -- it happens so fast that you're not sure what just happened. The music is soring and then BOOM, suddenly everything is quiet.

Sound is pretty good. Strings boast a lot of heft and warmth. The bass drum comes in with good detail. That being said, the overall sound is a bit too reverberant, making the music sound muddy at times. Ives benefits from a more dry, analytical sound.

Bottom line: if you want Ives Symphony No.2 a la Bernstein, then just buy one of Bernstein's two recordings of the 2nd (Sony and DG), which you should (there is something to be said of the enthusiasm that Bernstein and his followers bring to the music). At the same time, get Schermerhorn's version with the new critical edition on Naxos.

(oh yeah, the 3rd symphony and General William Booth enters into Heaven receive fine performances)

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Review by raffells December 31, 2006 (4 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I suppose with one hour to go to to another year I am reviewing a composer that equates to my equivelant of Schoenberg !.Totally mystyfing.Easily recognizable but ?...I had hoped for sym, 1-2 of which I am more familiar but turned out to be delighted with this disc.So much so I will risk another few bob on the companion disc.The 4th I can ignore.
Recording quality is up with the best.Even interpretation (which was difficult to spell in my current state) was better than previous versions.Safe bet for anyone who likes classical music and wants to take half a chance.notes and everything else first compaints except Why did it take so long to get such music on high quality.... BUY I am not goiung to be so gernerous next year in marking...

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Review by Oscar May 20, 2007 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Another great disc of Ives symphonies.

Both are very rewarding works and show Ives at his most inventive. The European influence in these works seems to me very clear, and Ives manages to absorb this idiom and at the same time be forward looking and original.

As with the companion disc, Litton seems to me a conductor fully inmersed in Ives complex world of sound. His Dallas orchestra is quite excellent, and the recordings are faultless.

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Works: 3  

Charles Ives - General William Booth enters into Heaven
Charles Ives - Symphony No. 2
Charles Ives - Symphony No. 3