Ives: Three Places in New England; New England Holidays; They are There!

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Ives
LABELS: Argo
WORKS: Three Places in New England; New England Holidays; They are There!
PERFORMER: Baltimore SO & Chorus/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: 444 860-2 DDD
Charles Ives liked to think of himself as a tough guy, uncompromising in his willingness to capture the world around him as he heard and remembered it, in all its rugged dissonance and chaos. But ironically, the very pictorial vividness of Ives also distances him from us, since Ives’s America is as foreign to present-day Americans as it is to non-Americans. Ives’s ‘Three Places’ are unrecognisable as the commercial New England of today; his ‘Holidays’ are anachronistic (Lincoln’s birthday, for instance, has been combined with Washington’s as an excuse for a three-day winter weekend). Many of the old American tunes and hymns he deconstructs are no longer recognised and require a musicologist to ferret out.

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What, then, would Ives have thought of this – surely the most gorgeous recording ever produced of his orchestral music? A little too sissified? Perhaps. But Zinman, nonetheless, sets new standards in illuminating the sheer musicality of Ives, in all its glorious richness. The playing is more stunning and nuanced than any I’ve ever heard from the Baltimore Symphony live or on disc, and the engineers perform further magic in their ability to preserve the sensuality of the orchestral sound. Zinman seems to be a magician in his own right as he brings a bygone era to life with remarkable immediacy. Yes, tough guys do dance. Mark Swed