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Charles IVES (1874–1954)
Songs - Vol. 6
Tarrant Moss (1902) [0:34]; There is a Certain Garden (1897) [1:48]; There is a Lane (1902) [1:11]; They Are There! (1942) [2:49]; The Things our Fathers Loved (and the greatest of these was Liberty) (1917) [1:33]; Thoreau (1915) [2:25]; Those Evening Bells (1907) [1:37]; Through Night and Day (1897) [2:30]; To Edith (1919) [1:33]; Tolerance (1913) [0:57]; Tom Sails Away (1917) [2:43]; Ein Ton (1900) [1:25]; Two Little Flowers (1921) [1:30]; Two Slants (Christian and Pagan) (1921) [1:44]; Vote for Names! Names! Names! (1912) [0:53]; The Waiting Soul (1908) [2:38]; Walking (1900) [2:44]; Walt Whitman (1921) [1:02]; Waltz (1894) [1:32]; Watchman! (1913) [1:54]; Weil auf Mir (1902) [1:43]; West London (1921) [3:10]; When Stars are in the Quiet Skies (1898) [3:03]; Where the Eagle Cannot See (1906) [2:00]; The White Gulls (1921) [2:50]; Widmung (1899) [2:11]; Wie Melodien Zieht es Mir (1899) [p2:56]; Wiegenlied (1906) [2:28]; William Will (1896) [4:06]; The World’s Highway (1906) [2:52]; The World’s Wanderers (1898) [1:53]; Yellow Leaves (1923) [1:28]
Lielle Berman, Jennifer Casey Cabot, Sara Jakubiak, Sumi Kittelberger (sopranos); Amanda Ingram, Tamara Mumford, Mary Phillips, Rebecca Ringle, Leah Wool (mezzos); Ryan MacPherson, Matthew Plenk, Kenneth Tarver (tenors); Daniel Trevor Bircher, Patrick Carfizzi, Michael Cavalieri, Robert Gardner, Diego Matamoros (baritones); David Pittsinger (bass); Douglas Dickson, Laura Garritson, J J Penna, Eric Trudel (piano)
rec. May-June 2005, Sprague Hall, Yale University, New Haven, USA, DDD
NAXOS 8.559274 [65:48] 


Experience Classicsonline

Apart from the French-Canadian Claude Vivier, no other composer seems to separate the listening public into the ‘hate him’/‘love him’ camps than Charles Ives. He is seen by some as a bungling amateur who had no idea of what he was doing. He is understood by many as the first real American composer, the first true voice of the American vernacular. Ives’ music can still shock an audience and raise passionate debate amongst music-lovers. Despite living to a grand old age, and seeing his music start to gain an audience, Ives wrote little after 1918. True he tinkered with pieces, left sketches for a Piano Concerto – the
Emerson Concerto, which was reconstructed David G Porter – and considered a Universe Symphony which would be all embracing in its intent and purpose, but the majority of his work after the war was vocal; the simple song for voice and piano. 

I’m not sure how many songs Ives wrote during his career but the six disks so far issued by Naxos comprise some 191 songs. This collection is as interesting and varied as it could be, ranging from the naïve simplicity of Two Little Flowers to the forthright, but somewhat ribald, They are There! - Ives’ own contribution to the war effort. One of the confusing things about the songs is the bewildering variety of styles in which they are written. It seems to me that he simply wrote in whatever style he thought best fitted the text he had chosen. When he wrote his own words I am sure that the accompanying music sprang alongside the words. This still leaves us confused at the sometimes drawing room ballad style of some of the songs when heard against his more philosophical and complex ones. 

This collection concentrates on the more straightforward songs but contains some wonderful surprises – Walking was the first Ives song I ever heard. It still has the power to shock. Starting as a simple song, when the tempo increases the singer gives a, spoken, commentary on the events and sights before him. It’s a marvelous piece of work which never does what you think it might. They Are There! uses unison voices, and piccolo obbligato, and is a passionate war song. Tom Sails Away tells of a family parting in the First World War. We also hear some of his philosophical works – Thoreau, after a spoken introduction, is all contemplation, and his setting of Matthew Arnold, West London - a vision of a growing society. There are the lighter songs, one dedicated to his adoptive daughter, and the very strange Tarrant Moss which sets words by Kipling. However, as copyright permission was refused Ives wrote his own verse and published it under the title Slugging a Vampire! This is Ives at his most perverse. The version recorded here uses the original Kipling words. 

Whilst there’s nothing on this disk of the stature of From the Incantation (1921), On the Antipodes (1915/1923) or the astonishing General William Booth Enters Into Heaven (1914) this is an interesting collection of much less well known Ives vocal works. The use of several different singers makes for a really interesting set. They are all very good, with controlled voices, no wobble and vibrato held to a minimum. 

Over the years there have been many recordings of handfuls of these songs, from Fischer–Dieskau, Marni Nixon and Jan DeGaetani, but this is part of a complete sequence of the songs and it should be in every collection. The recording is excellent, in good sound and the balance between voice and piano is exemplary. Although Naxos do not accompany the disc with texts for the songs the liner-notes are helpful and give a good idea of what each piece is about.

Bob Briggs


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