- Robert Browning Overture, for orchestra, S. 27 (K. 1B6)
- Symphony No. 2, for orchestra, S. 2 (K. 1A2)
Charles Ives's music can sound unruly and chaotic even in a note-perfect performance -- it's when it doesn't sound that way that something's probably gone wrong. Still, even the most crazily delectable recordings of Ives's orchestral works, such as those led by Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas, have been based on dubious printed editions. (Ives's tendency to revise and retouch his works over the years is surely in part to blame.) For his new critical edition of the Second Symphony, commissioned by the Ives Society, Jonathan Elkus has made nearly a thousand corrections from the original printing. Is it an audibly different work in this premiere recording of the new edition by Kenneth Schermerhorn and the Nashville Symphony? It does have a leaner, more classical feel than Bernstein's recordings, to be sure, and is less prone to romantic tempo stretching. (Tempo clarifications are among the most important changes here, according to Elkus.) But it's still recognizably the same piece, chock-full of charming quotations of popular American songs woven together into a symphonic fabric derived as much from Brahms as Stephen Foster. Forget about Dvorák -- here's the real "New World" Symphony. The Robert Browning Overture, also given in a new edition here, is a thornier, more abstract work. Its pensive, quietly evocative strings twice give way to surging processions reminiscent of nothing so much as the self-deconstructing final Marsch from Alban Berg's Three Pieces for Orchestra. The Nashville Symphony's performances in both works, intelligently molded by Schermerhorn, don't surround the music with a lush cushion of sound, but place it instead right where it belongs: out in the bustling streets, the open fields, and the craggy mountains of the America that Ives so fiercely celebrated.