Ives/Creston

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COMPOSERS: Ives/Creston
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Detroit SO/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9390 DDD
This is the eighth volume in Chandos’s revealing series of American music recorded in Detroit. Most of the discs have paired the familiar with the unfamiliar, and this one is no exception, coupling oft-recorded Ives with a symphony by a composer of a more recent generation, Paul Creston (1906-85).

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Although completed in 1901, Ives’s Second Symphony had to wait until 1951 (three years before the composer’s death) for its first performance, under Leonard Bernstein. It effectively marks the transition in Ives’s style between the worthy works of the organ loft (the Adagio cantabile began life as an organ prelude) and the outrageous polymusicalism for which he is best known. Järvi perhaps denies the work its last ounce of exuberance – found to better effect in Bernstein’s DG account – but the new recording has no rival in its ability to capture all the conflicting polyphonic lines of the symphony’s recalcitrant finale.

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In this context, Creston’s Second Symphony (1944) seems far less adventurous a work, an ‘apotheosis of song and dance’ mixing the nostalgia of Rachmaninov with driving, jazzy rhythms. Yet the Detroit SO’s stunning performance makes a persuasive case for this imaginatively scored work. Matthew Rye