Ives Three Orchestral Sets
This is a fascinating release that offers Ives’s three Orchestral Sets for the first time. The curtain is raised with the first of them, Three Places in New England, in its original version – this stands somewhere between the Country Band March and the later, more familiar Three Places. At this stage there’s no piano part and the conflicting march rhythm in “Putnam’s Camp” is missing as well as its dissonant opening. Both the First and Second Sets are vintage Ives, with his unforgettable reaction to the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the US into the First World War at the end of the Second Set.
But the novelty here is the Third Set. The first two movements come from sketches edited by David Gray Porter. The opening Andante has a structure similar to Central Park in the Dark with typical Ives chords and a texture building to a crisis with something left hanging softly at the end. The second movement is called “During Camp Meetin’ Week: One Secular Afternoon”. This again is Ives’s idiosyncratic territory with lots of quotations including “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean” twice and a four-part hymn about the Day of Judgement – not so secular after all?
Completing works by Ives has become an industry that the composer would have welcomed. We’ve had the Emerson Concerto (12/03), also conducted by Sinclair, and the Universe Symphony (7/04). The perhaps over-extended last movement of this Third Set, realised by Nors Josephson, at times sounds like Varèse, although it begins and ends softly. Well recorded, idiomatic performances all round – a real Ives discovery.