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Desert Island Ives Discs

If I were sent to a desert island, and I could only take ten Ives recordings, these would be the ones--if I had to make my decision today. I don't think of these as the ten "best" Ives recordings. (I'm not qualified to make those sorts of judgments. Is anyone?) Also, these aren't even necessarily my top recommendations for each work. (Look at each work's Survey of Recordings page for that.) This just represents a good "basic Ives library" pared down to ten readily-available discs.

  1. Orchestral Set No. 1, Three Places in New England (version for small orchestra), Set for Theatre Orchestra, and other orchestral works / Sinclair (Koch)

  2. Symphony No. 1, Symphony No. 4 / Michael Tilson Thomas (Sony Classical)

  3. Songs / DeGaetani & Kalish (Nonesuch)

  4. Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60 / Marc-Andre Hamelin (Hyperion)

  5. Holidays Symphony, The Unanswered Question, Central Park in the Dark / Michael Tilson Thomas (Sony Classical)

  6. Orchestral Set No. 2, Symphony No. 3 / Michael Tilson Thomas (Sony Classical)

  7. Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-4 / Shannon & Fulkerson (Bridge)

  8. Symphony No. 2, Robert Browning Overture / Schermerhorn (Naxos)

  9. String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2, Juilliard SQ / Orchestral Set No. 1, Three Places in New England (version for large orchestra), Variations on America (orch. Schuman) / Ormandy (Sony Essential Classics, UK only)

  10. Sets for Small Orchestra / Set for Theatre Orchestra / Songs / Music Projects London (Decca)

What's Missing?

Inevitably, when you're limited to ten recordings, some really good stuff is going to get left behind. Here's some other recordings that you really should check out:

  • Piano Trio / Ma, Kalish, and Lefkowitz (Sony Classical)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1 / Joanna MacGregor (Collins, out of print)
  • Other piano music (the Studies, "Three Page Sonata," and other short works) / Mead (Metier) or Berman (CRI / New World)
  • Choral music / Gregg Smith Singers (Columbia, out-of-print LPs)
  • Universe Symphony (as realized by Johnny Reinhard) / Reinhard, American Festival of Microtonal Music Orchestra (Stereo Society)



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Original text copyright Scott Mortensen 2002-2006