Ives: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 4

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

LABELS: RCA Red Seal High Performance
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy; John Alldis Choir, LPO/José Serebrier
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 63316 2 ADD Reissue (1973, 1974)
José Serebrier was one of Stokowski’s assistant conductors in the world premiere of Ives’s Fourth Symphony. In the notes he writes vividly of the excitement of putting together his own 1974 recording in coal-strike-hit London – the first with one conductor and only the second ever made – and the music’s fearsome difficulty. It’s a manifestly sympathetic reading. If Stokowski had more transcendental vision, and later recordings have rendered Ives’s terraced heterophony better (Serebrier’s careful clarification of lines sometimes diminishes the piece’s joyous multi-dimensionality) this is still a performance of many insights, and makes one aware of the strength of Ives’s symphonic architecture. In any case, preferable to Ormandy’s overblown account of the much more ‘traditional’ Second Symphony, with its leaden-footed first Allegro. Calum MacDonald