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Charles IVES (1874-1954)
Songs, Vol. 1
Full track and artist details listed at end of review
rec. May-June 2005, Sprague Hall, Yale University, New Haven, USA
NAXOS 8.559269
[74:52]

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Charles IVES (1874-1954)
Songs, Vol. 2
Full track and artist details listed at end of review
rec. May-June 2005, Sprague Hall, Yale University, New Haven, USA
NAXOS 8.559270 [67.37]
Experience Classicsonline


As I write this review, I realize that Naxos has moved on very quickly and there are now five volumes of Ives’ complete songs available in the shops. Nevertheless the pattern for these discs seems to have been repeated for the latest ones so I can throw some light on what they are all about and what you can expect. The first thing to say is that the whole concept is brilliant, that is, to vary the voices, young ones as well as experienced opera singers - all biographies are meticulously given in the booklets - and to vary the accompanists. These latter can sometimes be overlooked but here each has done a sterling job. On some occasions the piano part is massively more difficult than the vocal one. Also inspired was the decision to put the items together in alphabetical order. This places the songs in a random chronological manner so that as you listen you have the prospect of a new and pleasing surprise around every corner.

It’s true to say that not all of the performers are equally up to the tasks which Ives sets his poor singers. The right singer has not always been chosen for a particular song. Also some of the songs are rather ‘naff’. I would go so far as to say that ‘The All-Enduring’, on Volume 1 is almost the worst piece of music I have ever encountered. It is not helped by an overly earnest performance. I love Ives but when he is in this sort of pompous mood I just have to walk away. Things are not helped in this long song - as sometimes elsewhere - by not being able to hear the words. So before you start I strongly advise you to go on the Naxos website and download them. Incidentally, best of luck with this because from my experience the procedure is awkward and inconsistent.

It may still be possible to obtain copies of a disc of Ives’ songs which Henry Herford and Robin Bowman recorded for the now long defunct Unicorn-Kanchana label back in the early 1990s. Their performances of ‘Autumn’ and ‘Afterglow’ for example completely outstrip the dull efforts of the performers here. Nevertheless let’s take what we are given here and pick out a few highlights and, for me, discoveries.

Ives published his 114 songs - many very short indeed - in 1922. There are in fact about sixty others which form part of this complete collection. We may be coming to terms with his modernistic and later songs but this complete collection helps us to get to know the ‘Victoriana’ as well. The chromaticisms are such as to remind me of César Franck in for instance ‘Far from my heavenly home’. By 1922 he was approaching the end of his composing career although he had many years yet to live. I am a firm believer that the music written from about 1914 onwards is pure nostalgia. These songs - or indeed several of the orchestral works - often begin with a strange polytonal chord and then proceed in a similar manner supporting a tonal melody. One example is ‘August’ where the mood is captured superbly by David Pittsinger on Naxos. Incidentally, his diction is always immaculate and I was delighted to discover that it is he who tackles, excellently, the famous but challenging ‘General William Booth enters into Heaven’ on Volume 2.

Other personal highlights, both musically and in the quality of the performance would be ‘The Ending Year’ (Sara Jukubiak), ‘Grace’ (Tamara Mumford), ‘Charlie Routlage’ (Patrick Carfizzi), ‘Aeschylus and Sophocles’(Mary Philips) and the incredibly powerful ‘December’ (Janna Baty).

Looking through Ives’ choice of poetry is interesting as there is such a huge range which must represent his personal reading and interests. The anonymous ones may, in some cases be his own poetry although, as can be seen above he did normally credit himself. Perhaps ‘Far in the Wood’ may be such a poem. He also set texts in German where Wolf is almost looking over his shoulder. There are also French settings however the chanson ‘Elegie’ is a long way from Fauré.

There is a wide variety of fun and thought available in this little known and in some cases utterly unknown repertoire. These recordings may encourage more singers both amateur and professional, and not just American ones, to take up the Ives cause. A little group of Ives in a recital programme or on an examination syllabus would be refreshing and of enormous interest to listeners and performers.
 
Gary Higginson


see also review by John Sheppard

 
Tracklisting
Volume 1
1, 2, 3 [0.34]
Charles Ives (lyricist)
Patrick Carfuzzi, bass-baritone, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Abide with me [3.42]
Henry Francis Lyte (lyricist)
Sara Jakubiak, soprano, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Aeschylus and Sophocles [4.39]
Walter Savage Landor (lyricist)
Mary Phillips, mezzo-soprano, Laura Garritson, piano, Biava Quartet
 
Afterglow [2.25]
James Fenimore Cooper (lyricist)
Leah Wool, mezzo-soprano, JJ Penna, piano
 
Allegro [2.20]
Lielle Berman, soprano, Eric Trudel, piano
 
The All-Enduring [7.12]
Charles Ives (lyricist)
Robert Gardner, baritone, JJ Penna, piano
 
Amphion [1.19]
Alfred Tennyson (lyricist)
Sara Jakubiak, soprano, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Ann Street [0.57]
Maurice Morris (lyricist)
Leah Wool, mezzo-soprano, Eric Trudel, piano
 
At Parting [2.05]
Frederick Peterson (lyricist)
Kenneth Tarver, tenor, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
At Sea [1.25]
Robert Underwood Johnson, , (lyricist)
Ian Howell, counter-tenor, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
At the River [2.09]
Robert Lowry, , (lyricist)
Sara Jakubiak, soprano, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
August [3.02]
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, , (lyricist)
David Pittsinger, bass, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Autumn [2.37]
Harmony Twichell Ives, , (lyricist)
Cabot, Jennifer Casey, soprano, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Because of You [3.01]
Charles Ives (lyricist)
David Pittsinger, bass, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Because Thou Art [2.25]
Charles Ives (lyricist)
David Pittsinger, bass, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Berceuse [1.59]
Charles Ives (lyricist)
Mary Phillips, mezzo-soprano, JJ Penna, piano
 
The Cage [1.04]
Robert Gardner, baritone, JJ Penna, piano
 
The Camp Meeting [4.44]
Charles Ives / Charlotte Elliott (lyricists)
David Pittsinger, bass, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Canon I [1.03]
Charles Ives, (lyricist)
Kenneth Tarver, tenor, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Canon II [1.14]
Thomas Moore (lyricist)
Sara Jakubiak, soprano, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Chanson de Florian [2.00]
Jean Pierre Claris de Florian (lyricist)
Mary Phillips, mezzo-soprano, JJ Penna, piano
 
Charlie Rutlage [2.41]
Dominick John Kid O'Malley (lyricist)
Patrick Carfuzzi, bass-baritone, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
The Children's Hour [2.28]
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (lyricist)
Leah Wool, mezzo-soprano, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Edith Osborne Ives - Christmas Carol [3.46]
Matthew Plenk, tenor, Eric Trudel, piano
 
A Christmas Carol [2.44]
Charles Ives, (lyricist)
Ian Howell, counter-tenor, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
The Circus Band [2.11]
Charles Ives, (lyricist)
Robert Gardner, baritone, Eric Trudel, piano
 
The Collection [3.00]
Charles Ives
Lielle Berman, soprano, Sara Jakubiak, soprano
Tamara Mumford, mezzo-soprano, Matthew Plenk, tenor
Michael Cavalieri, baritone, Teardo, Frederick, organ
 
Country Celestial[3.44]
John Mason Neale, (lyricist)
Leah Wool, mezzo-soprano, JJ Penna, piano
 
Cradle Song [2.23]
Augusta L. Ives (lyricist)
Mary Phillips, mezzo-soprano, JJ Penna, piano
 

Vol. 2
December [1.10]
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (lyricist)
Janna Baty, soprano, JJ Penna, piano
 
Disclosure [1.14]
Charles Ives, (lyricist)
Matthew Plenk, tenor, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Down East [3.12]
Robert Gardner, baritone, Laura Garritson, piano
 
Dreams [4.01]
Anton Strelezki (lyricist)
Kenneth Tarver, tenor, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Du alte Mutter [2.27]
Aasmund Olavsson Linje (lyricist)
Michael Cavalieri, baritone, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Du bist wie eine Blume [1.50]
Heine, Heinrich, (lyricist)
Tamara Mumford , mezzo-soprano, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Elegie [4.56]
Louis Gallet (lyricist)
Leah Wool, mezzo-soprano, JJ Penna, piano
 
The Ending Year [3.02]
Charles Ives, (lyricist)
Sara Jakubiak, soprano, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Evening [2.05]
John Milton (lyricist)
Mary Phillips, mezzo-soprano. JJ Penna, piano
 
Evidence [1.44]
Charles Ives, (lyricist)
Matthew Plenk, tenor, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Eyes so dark (Weil' auf mir) [2.09]
Nikolaus Lenau (lyricist)
Matthew Plenk, tenor, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Far from my heav'nly home [4.28]
Henry Francis Lyte (lyricist)
Tamara Mumford , mezzo-soprano, Teardo, Frederick, organ
 
Far in the wood [1.46]
Charles Ives (lyricist)
Lielle Berman, soprano, Eric Trudel, piano
 
A Farewell to Land [1.53]
Lord Byron (lyricist)
Leah Wool, mezzo-soprano, Eric Trudel, piano
 
La Fede [0.54]
Ludovico Ariosto (lyricist)
Leah Wool, mezzo-soprano, JJ Penna, piano
 
Feldeinsamkeit [2.56]
Hermann Allmers (lyricist)
Michael Cavalieri, baritone, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Flag Song [2.23]
Henry S. Durand (lyricist)
David Pittsinger, bass, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Forward into Light [4.00]
Henry Alford (lyricist)
Jennifer Casey Cabot, soprano, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Friendship [3.23]
Charles Ives (lyricist)
Matthew Plenk, tenor, Eric Trudel, piano
 
Fruhlingslied [2.06]
Heinrich Heine (lyricist)
Heather Buck, soprano, Eric Trudel, piano
 
General William Booth Enters into Heaven [5.37]
Vachel Lindsay (lyricist)
David Pittsinger, bass, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
God Bless and Keep Thee [2:30]
Tamara Mumford , mezzo-soprano, Douglas Dickson, piano

Grace [1:39]
Charles Ives (lyricist)
 
Grantchester [3:12]
Rupert Brooke (lyricist)
Michael Cavalieri, baritone, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
The Greatest Man [1.25]
Anne Collins (lyricist)
Michael Cavalieri, baritone, Douglas Dickson, piano
 
Gruss [1.35]
Heinrich Heine (lyricist)
Sumi Kittelberger, soprano, Eric Trudel, piano

 


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