Ives: When the Moon: Set for Orchestra No.1; Set for Orchestra No. 2; Set for Orchestra No. 3; Set for Orchestra No. 4; Set for Orchestra No. 5; Set for Orchestra No. 6; Set for Orchestra No. 7; songs

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COMPOSERS: Ives
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: When the Moon: Set for Orchestra No.1; Set for Orchestra No. 2; Set for Orchestra No. 3; Set for Orchestra No. 4; Set for Orchestra No. 5; Set for Orchestra No. 6; Set for Orchestra No. 7; songs
PERFORMER: Susan Narucki (soprano), Sanford Sylvan (baritone), Alan Feinberg (piano); London Voices, Music Projects London/Richard Bernas
CATALOGUE NO: 466 841-2
Thirty-nine tracks in just over 60 minutes: we’re dealing with Ives the miniaturist (and what a brilliant miniaturist he was). His working methods put song and chamber music in a near-unique conjunction. Many of his songs for voice and piano started life as ‘songs without words’ for small instrumental groupings – short movements suggested by a specific text, and usually ‘setting’ it, one instrument taking the ‘voice’ part. He assembled many such ‘ensemble songs’ into actual or projected ‘sets’ for ensemble. This imaginatively planned disc presents eight (or so) of these sets together with the voice/piano song versions (sometimes the originals, more often subsequent arrangements) of the instrumental movements. One is staggered anew at Ives’s originality, his urgent lyricism, at his resource in recasting from one medium to another (and his sure command of both), and the ferociously clear focus of his imagination.

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Some of this repertoire is performed by the Ensemble Modern under Ingo Metzmacher on EMI, but this offering from Music Projects is more complete, more logically arranged, and on the whole more idiomatically performed. Sanford Sylvan is an Ives singer of long standing: I was less sure about Susan Narucki’s feeling for the music, but she sings accurately enough. The recording has magnificent presence. One of those rare discs that has you rethinking about the course of the 20th century: Ives the Yankee Webern, perhaps? Calum MacDonald