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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67540
Recording details: January 2006
Eugene McDermott Concert Hall, Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, USA
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Andrés Villalta
Release date: October 2006
Total duration: 37 minutes 10 seconds

'Overall these two CDs are a winning representation of the four Ives symphonies with the Dallas Symphony consistently impressive throughout' (Gramophone)

'Litton's new set is the one to have' (International Record Review)

'The performance of the Fourth is rightly the pinnacle of Andrew Litton's superb Ives cycle … Litton has the work's measure perfectly, balancing the visionary with the prosaic, and teasing out the most complex textures of a huge orchestra and a chorus with an exemplary clarity that is flawlessly captured by the recording' (The Guardian)

'Symphony No 1 is a work of youthful vigor … Litton opens the symphony in flowing style, he finds optimism in it, vitality, the freshness of a spring day … the finale is a corking movement, full of exuberance, energy, and invention. Wonderful! Litton and his splendid orchestra do it justice, not least the marching band episode toward the close … Symphony No 4 is an amazing piece that is here given a very assured performance' (Fanfare, USA)

'There is an unbuttoned passion, superb clarity of execution—particularly the brass—and, above all, a communication of spirit, probably down to Litton’s passion for the music, that just sweeps you along' (MusicWeb International)

'I forgot what it felt like to be proud to be an American until I heard Andrew Litton's hair-tearingly wonderful new live recordings of the Charles Ives Symphonies Nos 1-4 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (Hyperion). These thrillingly played, deeply moving accounts of the numbered symphonies (there's also a Holidays Symphony MTT has conducted in Davies, and an unfinished Universe Symphony recently released in a new completion), most of them recorded one year ago, set the post-9/11 standard for these still-ground-breaking works by the composer who remains our nation's greatest symphonist. Although Ives' visionary Fourth Symphony provides the peak experience, Litton doesn't play favorites with the works. He lavishes the same microscopic attention to detail and industrial-strength grasp of their extravagantly complex forms on every measure of all four, without for a beat losing sight of their unfathomable humanity' (Bay Area Reporter, USA)

'I have no doubt that Andrew Litton's cycle will serve as the reference for many years to come. A major achievement, no doubt about it … these are excellent performances in every respect: magnificently played, beautifully recorded, and conducted with unfailing intelligence. For all intents and purposes, Litton stands in a class of his own' (ClassicsToday.com)

'Ces performances captées sur le vif, formidablement souples et vivantes, imposent Ives en classique du XXe siècle; statut que l'Amérique lui reconnait depuis longtemps mais que le reste du monde accepte moins—à quelques exceptions près' (Diapason, France)

Symphony No 1
composer
1895/8

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Allegro, con molto  [11'35]
Scherzo: Vivace  [4'16]
Allegro molto  [12'50]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Ives always presented the First Symphony as a glorified homework assignment, done under duress as a senior thesis, of necessity written in late-Romantic style with heavy contributions of Brahms, Dvorák, and Tchaikovsky, its composition involving a steady struggle with Professor Horatio Parker, who was scandalized by the profuse modulations. Once in a while, though, Ives admitted a grudging affection for the piece.

It is true that few people who don’t know it would ever guess that this symphony is by Charles Ives. It seems a product of some 1890s European, or an American imitator. In fact, Ives was enormously gifted at imitating a range of styles, whether a Victorian parlour song or a German lied or a take-off of Debussy. Games with styles would be an important feature of his music. Here, he hits late Romanticism spot-on. And in the end, as usual, Ives imbues this work with a powerful personality. The First Symphony is tuneful, rousing, funny, sometimes spine-chilling. For all its rampant (and rambling) eclecticism it is one of the most entertaining and individual symphonies in the American repertoire.

It begins with a pulsing string figure over which a clarinet sings a wistful theme that Dvorák might have admired. In the background lurks a certain Romantic fatalism that will come and go in the movement until it boils over in the coda. The development section begins with a remarkable stroke: a quiet, haunting, endlessly rising chord sequence decorated with wisps of melody. Ives would not forget those chords; they turn up again in his valedictory Psalm 90.

After a second movement based on a Dvorákian quasi-spiritual for cor anglais comes a nimble and delightful canonic scherzo, which in scoring and execution can only be called masterful. The finale is entirely of the ‘banish care’ variety, filled with romping themes and vigorous march rhythms until it ends brassily with one of Ives’s grand parades of themes from the whole symphony.

from notes by Jan Swafford © 2006

Other albums featuring this work
'Ives: Symphonies Nos 1 & 4' (SACDA67540)
Ives: Symphonies Nos 1 & 4
This album is not yet available for download SACDA67540  Super-Audio CD — Deleted  
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