Orchestra New England, James Sinclair, conductor, The Orchestral Music Of Charles Ives

Daphne Carr

By Daphne Carr

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

This delightful set of suites and miscellaneous works displays the full range of Charles Ives 'considerable palette of compositional techniques in short, programmatic pieces often filled with whimsy or remembrance. A majority of the works here were never performed during Ives 'lifetime, and most receive their first recording with this inspired group led by Ives scholar and musical interpreter James Sinclair and the Orchestra New England.

"Ragtime Dances 1-4" weave syncopated orchestra quotations from dance tunes of the day — from ragtime marches to plaintive, slow drags — with dissonant piano passages. "Postlude in F" takes on a solemn, Brahmsian quality, which sounds starkly against the countermelodies and polyrhythms of "Calcium Night Light." The "Set for Theater Orchestra" contains "In the Cage," a lovely one-minute, nearly atonal muted horn reverie, the percussive flush of "In the Inn," where the inn's pack splits into several delightful side conversations of strings, piano and brass, and the sonorous low-registers of cello and a solo horn on "In the Night."

The impressionistic "3 Places In New England" stands out among the rest as one of Ives 'most masterful works — independent lines develop to a dizzy midsection burst of spreading dissonant chords on "The Saint Gaudens," a gesture repeated to even more harrowing, quick-spirited ends on "The Housatonic at Stockbridge," where a build-up of motives explodes, leaving only a whisper of strings instead of resolution. Here we see Ives 'great sensitivity and uncanny ear for the modern, even amidst his humble early 20th-century Connecticut surroundings.