Charles Ives: A Concord Symphony

Charles Ives: A Concord Symphony

by Dennis Russell Davies
     
 

Composer Henry Brant began his orchestration of Charles Ives' "Piano Sonata No. 2" (Concord, MA, 1840-1860, or more simply, "The Concord Sonata") in 1958 with the encouragement of Ives' first biographer, Henry Cowell. From the outset, Brant's intention in orchestrating the "Concord" was "to present Ives' music in an easily playable form…  See more details below

Overview

Composer Henry Brant began his orchestration of Charles Ives' "Piano Sonata No. 2" (Concord, MA, 1840-1860, or more simply, "The Concord Sonata") in 1958 with the encouragement of Ives' first biographer, Henry Cowell. From the outset, Brant's intention in orchestrating the "Concord" was "to present Ives' music in an easily playable form and to make it available to conductors who don't have special kinds of qualities required by Ives' own orchestral music. [In terms of scoring], it's as practical as Tchaikovsky." Work on the orchestration was taken up in off hours when Brant was not composing his own music or teaching, and nearly 40 years elapsed before Brant found himself before the finished product. This Innova recording of "A Concord Symphony," the title that Brant finally settled on for the work, was made at a live performance with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies in September 2000. It appears to be a decently recorded and very proficient reading of the score, which, though familiar from the piano version, remains most unfamiliar in Brant's orchestral garb. Nonetheless, there are parts of it that are undeniably effective, particularly the "Hawthorne" movement, where one could argue that the contrast between the still, hymn-like passages and their discordant, "Ivesian" interruptions is even more pointed in this orchestral version than in the original. The sense of mystery and awe in "Thoreau" is colorfully conveyed in Brant's orchestration and there is never a sense of overkill or "gilding the lily" here. Moreover, while Brant did not seek to create the kind of dense orchestral texture that Ives himself favored, "A Concord Symphony" does sound very much like Ives, particularly if one compares it to William Schuman's 1961 orchestral retread of Ives' organ piece "Variations on America," which admittedly transforms Ives' original in ways the composer would never have considered. Unlike the Schuman "Variations," there is little possibly that Brant's "A Concord Symphony" will ever "replace" the original "Concord Sonata" in the repertory, and that was not Brant's intention. The sonata has become far too entrenched for that, and despite the terrors it presented to listeners who first heard it in the 1930s, audiences worldwide have grown up around it and accept it, younger listeners very readily. One is thankful that of all composers, Brant decided to take it on. Although Tchaikovsky may have been the model Brant had in mind when he created this orchestration, hearing "A Concord Symphony" one is impressed how well it stacks up to great American orchestrators like Roy Harris, Morton Gould, or, for that matter, Schuman, though in his approach to his work, not Ives'. Brant is one of the last remaining connections to that tradition of orchestrators, and this "labor of love" (Brant's words) constitutes a strong contribution to American orchestral music of the twentieth century and helps provide a sense of continuity to the twenty first. Although the booklet lists four tracks on "A Concord Symphony," there are five. This was recorded on Brant's 87th birthday, and a brief birthday salute from the Concertgebouw Orchestra to Brant is included for the fifth track.

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Product Details

Release Date:
11/27/2007
Label:
Innova Records
UPC:
0726708641429
catalogNumber:
414
Rank:
297788

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. A Concord Symphony, for orchestra (after Charles Ives' Concord Sonata)  - Henry Brant  -  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam  - Dennis Russell Davies  - Philip Blackburn
  2. Lang zal hÿ Leven (Long May He Live)  - Dutch Traditional  -  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam  - Dennis Russell Davies  - Philip Blackburn

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