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Ives used a variety of titles for this work including:

  • "Central Park in the Dark (in the Good Ole Summer Time)"
  • "A Contemplation of Nothing Serious"
  • "Central Park in the Dark (Some 40 Years Ago)"

Ives also paired this work with "The Unanswered Question" and called the set "Two Contemplations." "Central Park" served as movement No. 2.

Commentary

This work is Ives' musical impression of a walk in Central Park around the turn of the century. In annotations in the manuscript, Ives declares, "Runaway smashes into fence, heard at 65 CPW July 16, 1906, with J[ulian] M[yrick], Old Pt Comfort."

This work represents one of Ives' first forays into densely layered music. It's also probably one of the works that Ives would have played for Harmony Twichell when their relationship was just beginning to blossom.

Composition History

Ives composed the "Central Park in The Dark" from July through December 1906. He also possibly made revisions to the work in 1936.

Ives weaves the following tunes into the work:

  • "Ben Bolt"
  • "The Campbell's are Comin'"
  • "Hello! Ma Baby"
  • "Violets"
  • Sousa's "Washington Post March"

Premiere Performance

The premiere performance of "Central Park in the Dark" occurred on May 11, 1946. A chamber orchestra of graduate students at the Juilliard School performed the work. Theodore Bloomfield conducted the ensemble. The same concert featured the premieres of "The Unanswered Question" and String Quartet No. 2.

Premiere Recording

The first recording of this work was released in 1951. Will Lorin and the Polymusic Chamber Orchestra performed the work on the Polymusic label.

 

 


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Original text copyright Scott Mortensen 2002