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Songs Our Fathers Loved: A Charles Ives Thread
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Leo K



Joined: 27 Jun 2007

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 6:08 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

In the 'postface' to his 1922 song collection 114 Songs, Ives wrote:

...[A]n interest in any art-activity from poetry to baseball is better, broadly speaking, if it is held as a part of life, or of a life, than if it sets itself up as a whole--a condition verging, perhaps, toward a monopoly or, possibly, a kind of atrophy of the other important values, and hence resting unfavorably upon itself. ... If a fiddler or poet does nothing all day long but enjoy the luxury and drudgery of fiddling or dreaming, with or without meals, does he or does he not, for this reason, have anything valuable to express?--or is whatever he thinks he has to express less valuable than he thinks?

This is a question that which each man must answer for himself. It depends, to a great extent, on what a man nails up on his dashboard as "valuable." Does not the sinking back into the soft state of mind (or possibly non-state of mind) that may accept "art for art's sake" tend to shrink rather than toughen up the hitting muscles--and incidentally those of the umpire or the grandstand, if there be one? To quote from a book that is not read, "Is not beauty in music too often confused with something which lets the ears lie back in an easy-chair?" Many sounds that we are used to do not bother us, and for that reason are we not inclined to call them beautiful? ... Possibly the fondness for personal expression--the kind in which self-indulgence dresses up and miscalls itself freedom--may throw out a skin-deep arrangement, which is readily accepted at first as beautiful--formulae that weaken rather than toughen the musical-muscles. If a composer's conception of his art, its functions and its ideals, even if sincere, coincides to such an extent with these groove-colored permutations of tried-out progressions in expediency so that he can arrange them over and over again to his delight--has he or has he not been drugged with an overdose of habit-forming sounds? And as a result, do not the muscles of his clientele become flabbier and flabbier until they give way altogether and find refuge only in exciting platitudes--even the sensual outbursts of an emasculated rubber-stamp, a 'Zaza,' a 'Salome' or some other money-getting costume of effeminate manhood?


114 Songs was Ives's second privately printed publication (about a year after the Concord Sonata) in order to "clean house" as Ives put it. He felt as if each song was like an article of clothing...pants, underwear, shirt and etc...hanging on a clothes line for all his "nieghbors" to see, which Ives felt was a good way for any "vain" man (to be humbled).

The quote above illustrates Ives hatred for "sissie-fied" art. He couldn't stand mannered music, or music written to please or promote fantasy (for this reason he hated Mozart and Wagner, to name a few). Ives went over the top at times in his rants against the "sissies" of the Europeanized tradition of musical America in the early 20th century, such as Toscannini and etc. He also had a fear about becoming soft, effeminine and weak...'un-man-ley' in his music. I think biographer Jan Swafford speculated this fear stems from Charlie's childhood, when it was more acceptable for a boy to play baseball rather than piano. When asked what instrument he played, Ives would often reply, "shortstop!"

Composer Eliot Carter claimed Ives purposely added more and more dissonance onto his youthful works as he got older,in order to be more 'modern' and spite the establishment. Whatever Ives actually did, there is no doubt that he was often angry, but I feel this 'anger' fueled his creativity in a good way (Beethoven comes to mind). In the end, Ives's strong sense of the mystery of existance, and his transcendental freedom between the physical and spiritual conditions of nature is what is heard most in his music.

Here is my favorite song from 114 Songs:

General William Booth Enters Into Heaven(1914)

Text: Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)

Booth led boldly with his big bass drum
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
The Saints smiled gravely and they said, "He's come,"
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

Walking lepers followed rank on rank,
Lurching bravos from the ditches dank
Drabs the alleyways and drug fiends pale
Minds still passion ridden, soul flowers frail:
Vermin eaten saints with moldy breath,
Unwashed legions with the ways of Death
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

Ev'ry slum had sent its half a score
The world round over. (Booth had groaned for more).
Ev'ry banner that the wide world flies
Bloomed with glory and transcendent dyes,
Big voiced lassies made their banjoes bang,
Tranced, fanatical they shrieked and sang;
"Are you? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?"

Hallelulah! It was queer to see
Bull necked convicts with that land made free.
Loons with trumpets a blare, blare, blare,
On, on, upward thro' the golden air!
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

Jesus came from the court house door,
Stretched his hands above the passing poor.
Booth saw not, but led his queer ones
Round and round the mighty courthouse square.
Yet! in an instant all that blear review
Marched on spotless, clad in raiment new.

My benchmark performance of this work is not the solo piano version, but the chamber orchestra and choir version performed by The Gregg Smith Singers, Ithaca College Choir, The Texuas Boys Choir of Fort Worth & The Columbia Chamber Orchestra. This orchestra version was not totally arranged by Ives, but he did supervise the arrangement.

Conducted by Gregg Smith

From the Columbia LP Stereo MS 6921 (out of print LP). I can post this song if anyone wants.
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Leo K



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 6:21 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-1860
Written between 1904-1915


One of the happiest moments of my life was finally tracking down the score to his Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-1860. Some nice lady in a piano store ordered me the score, which cost around 20 bucks in 1989. I used to pour over that thing during camping trips, following along to John Kirkpatrick's classic perfromance from 1968 (Columbia MS 7192, out of print LP).



The Concord Sonata (and most of his musical work, for that matter) is amazing in that it is really not about melody, harmony, or musical form in the conventional sense. The Concord Sonata was originally a Piano Concerto, also known as the Emerson Overture (based on the great transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson). The piano is portrayed as Emerson, and the orchestra is the congregation (or The Mass culture of America) reacting to Emerson's edgy, transcendental discourse. Great (very dissonant and wild) music and great concept!

From 1904 until 1915 or so, the piece morphed into a Sonata for a single piano, in four movements, each based on a transcendentalist literary figure(s):

i. Emerson
ii. Hawthorne
iii. The Alcotts
iv. Thoreau


This Sonata is Ives's problably his most personal work. He even wrote a book to introduce this piece, called Essays Before A Sonata (which you can read at ftp://ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext03/ivess10.txt)

Like most of Ives's music, this piece is a 'happening' each time it is performed, like performance art, or like Jazz. However, the music seems very occupied over the concept of time, or at least thats how I've heard it. And I'm not just talking about the unique technical aspects he used, such as avoiding using time signatures for most of the Concord Sonata and etc. Ives was obsessed with the past...America's past as well as his own, especially his own childhood. I strongly feel that Ives is the forefather of 'conceptual' art.



http://rapidshare.com/files/41016645/Ives_Concord_-_Hamelin.rar



Next...the first movement...Emerson
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Leo K



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:18 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

I. Emerson



[from Ives's Essays Before A Sonata]

The religion of Puritanism was based to a great
extent, on a search for the unknowable, limited only by the dogma
of its theology--a search for a path, so that the soul could
better be conducted to the next world, while Emerson's
transcendentalism was based on the wider search for the
unknowable, unlimited in any way or by anything except the vast
bounds of innate goodness, as it might be revealed to him in any
phenomena of man, Nature, or God. This distinction, tenuous, in
spite of the definite-sounding words, we like to believe has
something peculiar to Emerson in it. We like to feel that it
superimposes the one that makes all transcendentalism but an
intellectual state, based on the theory of innate ideas, the
reality of thought and the necessity of its freedom. For the
philosophy of the religion, or whatever you will call it, of the
Concord Transcendentalists is at least, more than an intellectual
state--it has even some of the functions of the Puritan church--
it is a spiritual state in which both soul and mind can better
conduct themselves in this world, and also in the next--when the
time comes. The search of the Puritan was rather along the path
of logic, spiritualized, and the transcendentalist of reason,
spiritualized--a difference in a broad sense between objective
and subjective contemplation.


I feel Ives's Emerson music is Ives's greatest conception and his greatest music. This is simply his masterpiece. Therefore, I am going to start at the beginning...with the Emerson music in it's original form as a full fledged piano concerto. As a concerto, this music can be heard on this fantastic release:



Emerson Overture [or Concerto] for Piano and Orchestra

by Charles Ives (and reconstructed by David G. Porter)

(In four movements)

Movement I. (8:39)
Movement II. (5:00)
Movement III.(5:50)
Movement IV. (5:25)

I've been listing to this alot in the car lately...upon listening to the Emerson Concerto yesterday, I realized what I like so much about it. It's the second movement that makes this reconstruction worthwhile. The second movement is more reflective, serene (mostly anyways). The human faith melody sounds awesome in Ives's original orchestration (at least the parts that were finished anyway). My favorite section in the Piano Sonata are the quieter serene parts in the Emerson movement, the human faith melodies in their various transformations, so to hear it in orchestral form is quite a treat.

Barry Guerrero...from the Mahler board during a discussion of this recording wrote:


Leo,

I picked up the Emerson Concerto pretty cheap today. I agree with you - I like the second movement best also. Actually, I like both of the two inner movements. Much of the finale is very good too. There's much that reminds me of Messiaen, particulary the string voicings. Also, it's not true that nothing reoccures in this piece. The descending half-step harmonies become a leitmotif of their own - that's how often they reoccure. Many short cells and "licks" do repeat themselves. Even the Beethoven's 5th motto repeats itself. The piece just isn't thematic in any tradional sense, obviously. Much of the second movement makes me think more of a sophistocated New York skyline at night than it does of Emerson's rugged wilderness. I enjoyed hearing it, and want to listen to it a few more times. I didn't get to the symphony yet.


I agree regarding the repeating motives and cells. The same can be said of the Emerson of the Sonata itself. Parker really schooled him in Brahm's and Beethoven's use of motives and etc. Again, like Ives does in his 2nd Symphony (and other works), there is an interesting mixture of American-like themes mixed up with European procedures that gets more sophisticated as Ives matures. I guess one can surmise that Ives learned more from his Yale music professor (Horatio Parker) than he like to admit.



In the first movement of the concerto, I really like the writing for the french horns, which sometimes play this heroic-like theme (which is also in the piano part sometimes) that seems to be a new motive.

When I hear the second movement I think of a bright sun on a cold autumn morning, and sometimes I think of Harmony Ives in their country home in Redding, sitting and sewing or something!! The begining of the 3rd movement brings Thoreau's flute to mind [discussion on this forthcoming].

The Emerson Concerto may not be as tight as the Sonata movement...but it does get better with each listen...Ives's Emerson stuff had always intriqued me. I have the Ives Plays Ives CD, and it's an interesting document of Ives's obsession with the Emerson themes. Over and over he plays what he called the Four Transcriptions from Emerson. Each of these four transcriptions are related to the unfinished Emerson Concerto. Ives was a great piano player too, although the recordings suffer from limited sound (he recorded between 1933 to 1943).



To be continued...
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Last edited by Leo K on Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:21 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Chris D.



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:20 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

This is a really beautiful thread. I only know Symphony No. 4, but it's a favorite. Keep up the great work.
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Leo K



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:26 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

Chris D. wrote:
This is a really beautiful thread. I only know Symphony No. 4, but it's a favorite. Keep up the great work.


Thanks much Chris...I hope to get an essay on the 4th sometime soon...it's one of my favorites too Smile
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Leo K



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:29 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

David Porter did an excellant job reconstructing Ives's Emerson Concerto, so we could all study the first incarnation of the Emerson music Ives later reworked for the Concord Sonata. I highly recommend this disk (which also features an excellant version of the Ives 1st).

But first I'm going to post excerpts from an Amazon review of this disk from Bob Zeidler...one of my favorite reviewers on the net. As you will see, this review is referenced in the Porter discussion I will post next.

Amazon review of the Emerson Concerto:

Charlie Done Right. Part III October 31, 2003

Reviewer: Bob Zeidler (Charlton, MA United States)

Superficially, this new Naxos release of Ives's 1st Symphony and the premiere recording of his Emerson Concerto resembles an earlier Naxos release of his 2nd Symphony and Robert Browning Overture (a review of which I gave the sobriquet "Charlie done right"). The resemblance is in the pairing of an "accessible" Ives work with one more "knotty." In each case, the symphony receives a performance using a new critical edition (by Jonathan Elkus in that earlier release and by James Sinclair in this one). And each critical edition affords a fresh view of such "accessible" Ives. But the similarities shouldn't be overdrawn; while the Robert Browning Overture is knotty under the best of circumstances, the Emerson Concerto turns out to be more accessible than I expected; a pleasant revelation.

...the Emerson Concerto in its recording premiere, hardly arrives "unannounced," as Alan Feinberg, the soloist here, has performed the work (to splendid reviews) in concerts since its concert premiere in 1998. But for most of us this is a "first hearing."

The work is"realized" by David G. Porter, an Ives scholar who must number among the fearless of this small community, from incomplete sketches of an "Emerson Overture" for piano and orchestra (one of four such proposed overtures on literary figures, of which only the Robert Browning Overture saw completion). According to Sinclair's authoritative "Descriptive Catalog of the Music of Charles Ives," the terms "overture" and "concerto" can be used interchangeably.

While Ives never completed the work, he did succeed in subsuming many of its themes in the Concord Sonata and the Four Emerson Transcriptions for Piano that are closely related, thematically, to the Concord. By far the most famous of these themes is the four-note "Fate" motive that begins Beethoven's 5th Symphony, a theme for which Ives ascribed greater "universality" than did Beethoven himself.

Ivesians coming upon this work for the first time will find it to be a fascinating, and at times compelling, mix of "the old" and "the new and strange." For the most part, connections to the Concord and the Emerson Transcriptions will be recognized, but of course transmogrified. The "Fate" motive seems to be more dominant here than in the keyboard equivalents; it is clearly the unifying theme for all four movements. Feinberg is absolutely heroic in his performance (as he needs to be, needless to say).

Orchestrating the work (and here Porter has done a superb job) clarifies far more than it obscures, vis-a-vis the keyboard works. As would be expected, shattering dissonances live side-by-side with passages of transcendent beauty. I was even able to pick out a passage or two where quarter-tones seem to have been employed by Porter; they are for the most part in the quieter passages, and they simply glow with beauty.



Next...an online discussion with David Porter...
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Leo K



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:32 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

I saved this conversion that occurred last year on the Ives list...it was a revelation to hear Porter discribe the process of editing together such a difficult work, and he also mentions the Mahler 10th completion.

Here are the names of the people involved in this discussion.

Scott Mortenson: Moderator of the Ives Yahoo List

Mike (don't know his last name): Frquent poster with good insights into Ives's music.

Porter: Ives Scholar and Editor


Emerson Concerto discussion
w/ David Porter (on Charles Ives List) from March 29 to June 7, 2005.


David Porter:

I looked up and read the Amazon review, which was new to me. Just
for the record, when he notices quartertones and muses that I may
have added them, the truth is, No, they are specified by Ives,
either in a musical notation or a verbal description (they only
occur in the statements of one passage and only in the cellos).

With all the verbal notes and memos he left in the sources, I still
wonder why he didn't try to resurrect the Concerto format. He was
asked on at least one occasion if he had a piano concerto on hand.
He has these memos scattered through all the sources (copies, copies
of copies, etc.), sometimes even referring to page numbers of a
missing (or never made) score. It isn't like he didn't have a full
orchestral draft in mind, and the only conclusion I came to is that
he may have re-realized the full orchestral score is he had been
asked for it and his health had allowed. Seriously, anyone else
would have been able to do this if they had just taken the time to
collect together all the materials and TRIED to do it. Because I
remember thinking to myself before the premiere that it was really
odd that no one else had tried this in the over 60 years since Ives
had first made these materials available, and 50 years since he last
fooled around with getting "Concord" revised. (The phrase "fooled
around" is apt -- read some accounts of the process.)

Scott Mortenson:

David, now a question for you: Do you prefer [John] Sinclair's version
to [Christoph] von Dohnanyi's? They're quite different in places, tempo-wise.

Porter:

Christoph's versions (I have the 4 from Cleveland and also the BBC
broadcast) is more "stately" or old-worldish, but it's not really a fair comparison because we were still working out details in Cleveland right up to the premiere (not due to them -- due to –some- at Schirmer who had fought me along the way and sent parts out that didn't match the score -- and once in a while a question about individual notes -- these are painfully obvious in the tape of the Italian group's premiere). Cleveland also uses my original conservative scoring (based on 1912 works like "St. Gaudens") while Jim [James Sinclair] did some score enrichment by revising wind voicings and adding a timpani part (all with my approval). Jim's tempos are more up as well.

I'd rather talk about the Concord Piano Sonata because I have both of Hamelin's recordings and I think they are the best around.

This piece [the Concord] didn't really make it for me
until I heard Hamelin's first CD. Even John Kirkpatrick’s [Kirkpatrick was the first pianist to perform the Concord Sonata] two performances (I have the 1st on tape and 2nd on LP) didn't do anything for me. I think if John Kirkpatrick had done more investigating into the Transcriptions and the Studies he would have been more to my liking as his familiarity with the music would have been enhanced -- but he always preferred the 1st edition and it was his dilly-dallying with helping Ives revise the score for the 2nd edition that caused some of the delay in bringing that out. The other pieces just didn't get hold of his interest. So I'm told.


Scott:

Also, do you have the text/URL of the Bernard Holland NYT
article?

I'm wondering WHY he thought the Emerson Concerto out of bounds.

Porter:

I have it, I think in plain text format too. He just didn't like the
work when he heard it, and then he went on his 2nd piece into
wondering why people bring out things like this and even the other
movements of Mahler's Tenth (he pretty much says Cooke et al spoiled
the Adagio for him). I was studying the Mahler sketches before I
got into Ives and corresponded with Cooke (when he was recovering his
health from the trials of the Wyn Morris recording project) and I'm
totally in favor of what he did. (I think Mazzetti has gone far
afield in his realization, from what I've read, but I still want to
hear his latest score.) Another "BTW," the title-pages for those
sketches tell a lot about the genesis of the Tenth -- that the
Finale was written first, that the "Purgatorio Order Inferno" was
later planned as the opening movement, and that the Adagio was written
last. I think from this that this explains why he went to the
Adagio first when drafting his first full scores, and left the last
movement, the oldest one, in its sketch-state only when he died --
he'd get to the old stuff later, but wanted to deal with the new
stuff first.

After that going-far-afield, do you want me to post or E-mail you the
texts? They are kind of long. Heh, I posted the 2nd article on
Usenet a couple of years ago and got some readers' reactions -- my
favorite is, "I say, this is the worst piece of drivel I have read
in a long time."

As I've said before, I didn't add a single note to Ives's music
(although to be perfectly honest, I did have to edit a basic text
for passages where more than one piano version was in existence and
I did make choices there). I just scored some passages, and when I
could I based my scoring on existing passages or other pieces'
orchestrations from the same years. In some places it was obvious
what to do -- looking as it did like other sketches I've copied out
in full score -- such as three string parts in RH and two in LH =
Violins and Violas for RH and Vc & DB for LH -- a no-brainer. There
are some "funny” places but they're all Ives -- I remember Jim questioning me on a
few places and all I could do was cite a manuscript page or a verbal
memo written by Ives himself. (One place is the cascading string
chord in the middle of the "variations on a simple theme" in mvt ii -
- Ives's memo tells exactly how he wanted it done or had done in
some missing score.) But in the end it's all there, even down to
single measures where he indicates that a whole contrapuntal line
had been for such-and-such an instrument or instruments.

It struck me as odd that Ives had been circulating copies of this
stuff since about 60 years ago when I first looked at it, and no one
else had tried to do this score, or hadn't seen what was there and
could be done. Sixty years! It's all there, and I don't know why
no one else tried it.

To be continued...
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Leo K



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:43 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

...continued from above...

Mike:

This is my first post. I have been an Ives maniac for over thirty
years and when the recording came out of the Emerson "Concerto" (It
was really supposed to be the "Emerson Overture for Piano and
Orchestra, another "Men of Literature" piece, the magnificent Robert
Browning Overture being the only other one in any sort of completed
state) I hesitated, knowing it was only an early version of
the "Emerson" movement of the second piano sonata.

Indeed probably 80% (IMHO) comes from the "Emerson" movement, or
should we say vice-versa, since the Concerto came first.

As this is my first post, I am going to strike a controversial chord
(pun intended). Although I greatly love the "Thoreau" and "Alcotts"
movements of the Concord Sonata, and can get my mind around
the "Hawthorne" movement (although I feel it's a bit too
rambling), "Emerson" has always posed a problem for me.

The longest movement of the sonata, "Emerson" undoubtedly contains
some of Ives's most powerful and eloquent music, but also most
difficult, for musician and listener alike.

It may well be the densest, most heterophonic, most dissonant piano
piece written before 1950. It alternates between chaos and simple
beauty, which given its subject and his philosophical positions, is
what it should be doing.

Regardless of this, the difficulty of it in many ways stems from
Ives cramming so much music into two hands. Yes, I know you can
play a six-note chord with one hand by bending your thumb so it
covers two keys. But "Emerson" begs the question how much is
expanding the range of the piano to sound orchestral, and how much
is simply trying to transcribe an orchestral work for piano?

The "Emerson" movement, of course, is not merely a transcription of
the "Concerto," nor do I claim it to secretly be one. But the use
of one sonority for all lines of melody and harmony makes it all the
more difficult to do any "ear-stretching."

Indeed, Ives could not have been totally unaware of this since the
full version of the Concord Sonata has brief additional parts for
other instruments, a viola in "Emerson" and a flute in "Thoreau"
(would "Thoreau" be as effective without the flute solo?). Much of
the time in "Emerson" one has a feeling of holding onto a life raft
in the midst of a violent storm, waiting for an interval of calm.

The Ives enthusiast would state that what I said above is exactly
the point. Emerson's questing to understand the order of a most
disorderly universe probably couldn't be expressed except with a
nearly incomprehensible frenzy of counterpoint. But like
Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" (a work I do revere), deliberate
obfuscation seemingly becomes exhausting after a while, if not
actually tiresome.

Finally getting to the "Concero," the material of the "Emerson"
piano work suddenly evokes a much different reaction. Tangles of
notes, when spread between piano and orchestra, or between just
orchestral instruments have more of a sense of cohesion than one
would have expected just listening to the piano piece.

Likewise other parts, such as what I believe are permutations of the
lyrical "Human Faith" melody, evoke quite different feelings when
played by hushed strings or solo flute than by piano alone. This
enhanced lyricism through orchestration is, in fact, quite in
keeping with the feeling of the Adagio of the Browning Overture.

I cannot contend that this lyricism is non-existent from the version
of "Emerson" for piano alone, but the orchestrated form evokes
deeper emotional feeling, again like _Browning._

It is not that there are not chaotic sections to the "Concerto."
But they feel more like the momentary chaos in pieces like "The
Fourth of July," or the coda of the second movement of the Fourth
Symphony: incomprehensible, but fitting to the moment (both, of
course, are about the excitement of the Fourth of July).

The reasons for "Emerson" being transformed from orchestral to
chamber music are not exactly difficult to discern, though.
Although the alternations of piano alone and orchestra at full blast
do make musical sense, the large amount of music for unaccompanied
piano (including the last minutes of the Concerto) must have made
Ives think it might all make more sense as a solo piano work. And
indeed it can be said the Concerto, at eight minutes longer than the
solo piano piece, says pretty much the same things as the piano
piece manages to do with greater concision.

Nonetheless, there is something about the Concerto. Not enough to
displace the sense that the solo piece is a sublime expression of
the ideas both works share. But enough to say that
this "unfinished" quasi-concerto can be appreciated as more than
simply the earlier, embryonic version of the later piece. Perhaps
in some ways it is even more moving than the version in
the "Concord" Sonata.

Indeed, in one place the Concerto changes a phrase in the piano to
give it, in some ways, more resonance than it has in the chamber
work. It is the last expression in the finale of the "Beethoven
Fifth Symphony" motto, played with a thundering Tschaikovskian
fortissimo, instead of the quiet expression of it at the end of the
sonata's version.

Some contend Ives never actually got to what would be the last notes
of the Concerto (he stated it was unfinished and, as symbolic of
Emerson, could never be). Nonetheless, this hammered passage,
followed by flittering little (almost inaudible) fragments of
unresolved melody that actually end the Concerto, seems as exact an
ending anyone could produce, and more fully realized than in the
Concord Sonata.

Scott:


A very interesting post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

For a long time, the "Emerson" music was tough-going for me. I couldn't
really get much of a foot-hold on it. More than anything else, the thing
that opened it up for me was listening to Ives' own recordings--specifically
all of the improvisations based on the Emerson music. Much of this
listening was passive, "in the background" sort of listening. But I kept
playing it over and over. After that, I turned to Hamelin's (first)
recording, and the whole work very suddenly made a lot more sense. I could
follow it and enjoy it. Later, I read the "Essays Before a Sonata" and the
whole sonata came into focus even more. Now I love it and probably listen
to it more than any other of Ives' compositions.

I think that it's interesting that you find the concerto/overture version
easier to "hear" or preferable or perhaps more fully realized. (Don't want
to put words in your mouth. Wink I have really enjoyed it too. But to my
ears the version for orchestra is MORE jarring to my ears than the sonata,
rather than less. But that may be just because I've listened to the sonata
so much.


To be continued...
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:47 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

Awesome, Leo. Thanks a lot!
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:47 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

Here is more of that online conversation with David Porter about the Emerson Concerto and it's reconstruction. Porter is discussing the piece with other posters on the Yahoo Ives List:

Mike:

Because of your [Scott’s] comments, I pulled out the Kalish rendition of the
Concord Sonata and listened to the Emerson movement.

One thing is hearing the Concerto made the sonata movement's
organization clearer to me. It is as if the Concerto were a
simplified version of the sonata movement, even though this doesn't
sound like the case. Of course a good amount of stuff in the
Concerto doesn't make it into the Sonata.

Not only that, but things more elaborated on in the Concerto are
presented in a briefer, more restrained fashion in the Sonata. This
could likely have been because Ives conceived the "Concerto" as a
piece for "the masses," while the Sonata is a much more intimate
experience, requiring toning down, just as acting on stage differs
greatly from acting on films or on television.

I'll agree that you can't put one of the pieces over the other.
They are the same material largely presented in two irreconcilable
and, therefore, incomparable ways.

Nonetheless, there are overall organizational ideas in the Concerto
that aren't in the Sonata.

The first, of course, is the separation of the music into two
blocks: the piano block and the orchestral block. The
interpretation that the orchestra is the universe and the piano is
Emerson seems correct. The piano and orchestra seldom work
together, essentially at odds with each other throughout the piece.

The "Beethoven motto theme," which is essentially the orchestra's,
is not heard in full version by the piano until the solo at the end
of the fourth movement. What's more, the only time the piano and
orchestra seem absolutely in sync is in the presentation of
the "Human Faith" theme near the end of the second movement. The
third movement opens with the piano and solo flute playing together,
but in counterpoint, not in unison. Then the orchestra and piano
separate again and never really reconcile.

The fourth movement has an almost heartbroken feeling to it, as
though the synthesis of self and the world Emerson seeks is, and
will always be, beyond his grasp. As stated above, the Concerto
ends with the piano (and, therefore, Emerson) alone, finally able to
articulate the Beethoven Motto theme, some sense of concilation in
what Emerson had achieved.

The sonata movement, of course, lacks the second component, the
orchestra. Ives manages to have the universe and Emerson still
present by creating two new blocks of music: fortissimo and
heterophonic, and pianissimo and essentially homophonic. The
antagonism is no longer in separate instrumental groups, but
integrated into the music, itself. The sonata movement also follows
the "sequence of events" described in the Concerto above. One can
hear the four separate divisions of the sonata movement just as one
can in the Concerto.

The absence of the orchestra, however, makes the "oppositional"
sense of the music quite different. Everything is filtered through
Emerson's mind, rather than existing as a separate entity from him
needing reconciliation. This seems correct as an expression of
Emerson's desire to be a "transparent eyeball," something virtually
non-existent that the world just flows through and becomes a part of.

What the sonata movement lacks, however, is the sense of pathos
present in the Concerto. The Concerto is about Emerson's struggle
with the world; the sonata movement is about the world flowing
through Emerson. The conflict in the Concerto is between Emerson
and the world. The conflict in the sonata movement is Emerson's
working toward understanding the chaos of the world, something
slightly different.

This does give the Concerto a more haunting, though less mystical
quality than the sonata movement. The Concerto only barely achieves
a sense of transcendentalism at the end of the finale. The sonata
movement goes in and out of this sense throughout its duration.

Which is the better approach? The Concerto obviously arises out of
the idea of Beethovenian symphonic struggle with the cosmos, rather
than the Tschaikovski or Brahms concertante style. This makes it
feel connected to present and past at once. The sonata movement
seems essentially disconnected with the past. Despite the Beethoven
motto, it has more in common with Beethoven's late quartets than his
Fifth Symphony. The reverse seems true of the Concerto.

Ultimately, it is the pathos that wins me over, but this is just my
soppy sentimental heart talking. My brain knows either version of
Emerson can be preferred.

Porter:

This is one of the most eloquent commentaries on the pieces that I
have seen in a long time.

(Porter next addresses Scott’s comment on Ives’s improvisations on Emerson heard on the Ives Plays Ives CD):

Those "improvisations" aren't improvisations at all. They were in
the Concerto (the first one is in the surviving sketch pages,
although sketchy in places -- it's clearer, but not much more, in
the MS for Study #9), and when Ives dropped them they first became
Studies. Studies 1, 2 & 9 are from these cadenzas, but most of #1
went into the First Transcription, and I suspect that #9 didn't
exist until that happened.

And it was after Ives's June 1933 recording sessions that he wrote
them all out (all except for the part that was in Study #1, although
he wrote a variant out on an unrelated page in the same Hanke copy
photostat -- this is the passage that's also in "Over the
Pavements"). And I think the reason he wrote them out was that
after he heard the recordings his hope that someone else could write
them down from those recordings was impossible. See "Memos" where
he writes that he hopes someone else can write them down for him.
This is why I date the main Transcription source for the Concerto,
Photostat positive copy "C" of the Hanke copy, with the fresh pages
with 2 of the cadenzas to be interleaved (cadenzas 1 & 3 = Studies 9
& 2, respectively), to be Fall 1933.
(now Porter Addresses Scott’s Praise of Hamlin’s recording of the Concord, which Scott stated helped make the Sonata more understandable for him)

Same here. (There's a Gershwinesque quality to that recording.)

Scott:

David P., I'd be interested in hearing what you think of the
differences between the two works. Do you find one them easier to "wrap your
ears around"? Or do you hear them as totally different works? And
which do you prefer?

Porter:

Actually, I don't "prefer" one to the other, although I do like the
orchestral setting more than the piano-only texture. I like a good
performance of the Sonata over a mediocre one, and that's about the
only real difference. The orchestral version does clarify for
other people the piano version. But I got very deep into this
morass (like Universe Symphony or 3rd Orchestral Set) and the works
exist in a different place for me than they would just about anyone
else. You know John Kirkpatrick had little or no interest at all in
the Concerto or the Transcriptions or the Studies other than a very
surface or general sense, or I'm sure he would have seen that the
Concerto was a revivable reality. I mean, look at what the guy
did -- he realizes works like "Johnny Poe" which are a lot more
incomplete, and never got beyond the two editions of Concord with
all the Emerson music! (And he always preferred the 1st edition.
Heh, the story goes that Ives had to send Harmony over to his house
to retrieve his materials for revising the Sonata when it became
clear that JK just wasn't interested enough to do it! And then JK
goes on to record the 2nd edition twice! But he always said that
he preferred the "clarity" of the 1st edition over the
changes/restorations of the 2nd edition.)

I've done this before, but I would like to clarify a few details
just for general interest.

First, the "viola" part is not to be played by a viola
in "Concord." It's simply "the viola part" from the Concerto. It
was also for bassoon and low bells (bells on the first of each set
of triplets, then continuing as the small notes in the Sonata
movement). How it got added the 2nd edition of Concord (through
the growth of the 4th Transcription) shows this quite plainly (a
long story that I won't repeat again here).

Next, there was apparently (in Ives's mind at the very least) a full
score to the Concerto that no longer exists. I found many, many
references to this score in patches for the revised edition and the
Transcriptions. There are even some references to specific page
numbers. But no such score exists now!

The long piano solo at the end: This was originally for the
unpublished "expanded" version of the 4th Transcription.
Kirkpatrick listed it as for a "page 14" of the Concerto, but it's
clearly for p. 14 of a photostat of Hanke's copy of the
Transcriptions.

Lastly, in the 1st edition of Concord, the movement ends with the
loud crashes of the Beethoven motif as in the Concerto (and the 4th
Transcription). The quiet version is new to the 2nd edition of
Concord.

You know, if it wasn't for the various copies of the Transcriptions
and patches for that and for the 2nd edition of Concord, this
Concerto wouldn't exist as it does. I was originally only going to
do the beginning and ending, which are almost complete in Ives's
hand, but I got so much encouragement to do the whole thing that I
went ahead and assembled every reference I could for the Concerto.
Ives did some pretty weird things with this music. You'll find a
source with one pencilled memo in it that tells you a passage was
for strings, or a series of patches labeled as "cadenza" material
that have no obvious relation to one another except that they are
patches for this piece.

In general, Ives wanted to tone down the music for his first edition
of Concord, while he wanted to reinstate much of the dissonances in
the 2nd edition, and he first carried this out by making the
Transcriptions. But he still left out many little details and
dissonances from the Concerto in the 2nd edition, and they only
exist in changes he made to one or two copies of the
Transcriptions. I spent a full week just on this in 1998 at Yale
doing nothing but spending all day in the library going over every
copy of the Transcriptions and Concord that had any kind of
Emersonian memo or emendation, at the same time I was getting proofs
from Schirmer. I wrote up this huge 10-chapter book on the whole
thing, four chapters just on the four Transcriptions as they were
changed from the original draft (this is Tom Brodhead's edition of
the Transcriptions), and it's astounding to see how many big and
little pieces of information are there. (Now, if only I could get
this book published...)

One more thing and then I'll stop. For all that Ives said about
this music being left unfinished, what he actually did, in his
emendations of copied scores and recordings, shows that whatever
unfinished-ness there was was miniscule. Every note that I put in
the score was written by Ives, and whatever scoring I did have to do
was minimal. Heh, I remember Jim Sinclair questioning the cascading
string passage in the "variations" section, and I told him with a
chortle that this was from a big paragraph Ives wrote about how he
had (wanted to or did) score it. And when Jim was recording it,
almost every time he questioned my scoring, I told him where Ives
had detailed that scoring. I did tend to be very conservative when
I was totally on my own, and I told Jim it was OK with me if he
beefed a few places up in those places, but it's kind of funny that
the more anomalous scoring passages are pure Ives.

Next...whats it like to actually play this stuff?
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:52 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

Primey Prime wrote:
Awesome, Leo. Thanks a lot!


Primey, I'd like to thank you for posting that Hamelin performance of the Concord on the old board Cool
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:56 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

Alan Feinberg
Interview by Guy Livingston, Feb.1st 1999


Guy Livingston writes:

Alan Feinberg is a terrific pianist, a graduate of Juilliard, who barely intended to have a solo career, and whose major breaks came in his thirties and forties, far later than most classical musicians would want or expect. But while many contemporary pianists have remained stuck in their specialty, Feinberg maintains a phenomenal breadth of repertoire, equally at home with Brahms and Babbitt. It is this devotion to music combined with an intensity of purpose that have gradually made him one of the most important American pianists of his generation. After a highly acclaimed appearance in 1991 with the Cleveland Orchestra in Sulamit Ran’s Concert Piece, Feinberg performed with them again in Brahms and, most recently, Ives.

The Ives is the new and astonishing piano concerto based on fragments of the Emerson Overture. These fragments, which Ives left behind in a chaotic state, have been painstakingly pieced together by maverick Ives scholar David G. Porter. In his program note to the piece, Porter says “more than 60 years have gone by since Ives began sending out sketches of the piece to interested persons...why did it take so long to realize that the basic idea of the concerto was complete? The reason comes in part from the simple disorder in which the manuscript pages were found over a long portion of the life of the composer... For my part, when I saw the copies of the manuscript, I was astonished by the state of completion of the five first and two last minutes of the piece. [Along with the Emerson transcriptions] there was enough to show not just ‘what might have been,’ but what ‘still had a chance to be.’

From these disparate, and often conflicting sources, Porter managed to assemble a concerto, which appears to be fairly close to what Ives intended. The piano part, resembling in many details and most themes the Emerson movement of the Concord Sonata--which came first, and which is a transcription of the other?--is most authentic. The orchestral part seems to have been sketchy, and is thus less successful in performance. A huge discrepancy exists between the static tutti scoring of this work and the heart-stopping complexity of authentic Ives orchestral music. (See any of the symphonies for this sort of bizarre and almost complexist instrumental writing). Yet, in the hands of Feinberg and the stellar Cleveland Orchestra under Christophe von Dohnányi, the piece stunned audiences this October in Cleveland and this February in Paris, Barcelona and Madrid.

The night after the tour finished in Paris with a triumphantly successful concert at the Cité de la Musique, we interviewed pianist Alan Feinberg about his career and about the experience of premiering the Ives.

Next...the interview...
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:57 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote


Alan Feinberg

(Alan Feinberg
Interview by Guy Livingston)

Ives is notorious for his ironic and obscure instructions. Were the comments that he left clear enough to follow?

Yes, the comments were about the music: “this measure is where the spiritual immensity begins,” or “this is a call...” There’s one point in the concerto where I put my right hand way up in the air and come down, slamming it down. He says when he plays it that’s what he does, because when there was an important point to be made in his sermon, Emerson would do that. This is all in there. It started out being one thing. It started out being piano and Emerson. The orchestra is the audience, but in the end it became Ives channeling Emerson...to an amazing degree.

When you read Ives’ essay on Emerson, he’s clearly wrought-up by the feelings it inspires.

It was the music that he felt the most attachment to of all the music he wrote, and he just never got tired of it. A CD is going to be released of every cut that he ever recorded. There was an old recording that had a few things on it, but there are all sorts of others--some of them are improvisations--but three-quarters of it is Emerson-related.

Of course a lot of those are at Yale. It’s wild hearing him go nuts in the recording studio, singing along and shouting insults and exhortations! Do you think Ives was a lunatic, or inspired?

Well, maybe both...

I have an odd history with Ives myself. In Cleveland I wrote a little article [about this]. It surprised me when they shoved it in the program book: A number of years ago I was asked to do the premiere of a sonata by a Hungarian composer in London: a fifteen-minute work. I agreed to do it because it was a chance to go to London. To make a long story short, it turned out to be the Concord Sonata, upside-down and backwards, line-by-line, but with the lines out of order.

Laszlo Sari was the composer. He didn’t announce what it was, so I got this piece and started working on it, and it was awfully strange. And I didn’t play the Concord at that time, but I knew the piece, and I don’t even know why, but I suddenly figured out what it was, and I called the publisher and they didn’t know anything about its relationship to Ives. I asked, “What do the program notes about the piece say?” -- and he said “Oh, no, no, it’s not possible, we don’t know Ives here,” and I said, “you don’t understand, this is Ives.” So I ended up calling the presenter in London, I was very upset: I thought I would lose the gig. I don’t think the presenter in London really believed me; he said, “come and do it anyway,” and I said I’d do it as long as I could say what it is.

So I went to London, and before I played, I explained what it was, and then I played it. It was really quite a piece of work. Everything’s upside down. Everything is inverted. It’s hard to do. If there is an arguable coherence in the Concord Sonata, there is absolutely none in this. But it was a riot. Pictures of Sary, myself, and the first line of the piece were on the front page of the London Times, and it was a big scandal, so this is why I started to develop a career in England. I got reviews that said things like “Well, he plays pretty well, but we’d like to hear him play something right-side up!”
And then a month later, I was in Budapest to meet Sary, and I didn’t know what that would be like. Actually the scandal had made his life pretty bad...

He was dependent upon the Union. This was bad publicity. It was the early part of the 80s; probably about 85. But he was terribly sweet. We didn’t have that much language in common... we both spoke a little bit of German. He was very nice. The publisher was funny. He translated for us. He was a very proper guy, and asked, “Do you have any questions about this score?” And I said, “Either I have no questions, or I have a zillion questions, because it doesn’t work; it doesn’t work backwards like this.” There are more notes above middle C than below middle C. So not all the notes are on the piano. And some rhythms don’t retrograde. So he says “well what do you mean,” and I pointed to one section, and Sary looked at it and said, [dejectedly] “yes...it doesn’t work.”

But he was very nice to me, very sweet after the concert, and I realized that he’d gotten a hard time for it .He just seemed like a good soul, who was very caught up with Ives that year. He and a Zoltan Yeni had this music studio, where they were all doing wacky things. Zoltan Yeni did the Mahler Ninth symphony, and just redistributed the parts, without transposing them. I didn’t hear it, but there were also cases of people ripping off stuff like that, and claiming that it was original writing.

All of this did not make me want to play the Concord Sonata.

But a couple of years ago for the Ives hundredth birthday, there was a Festival at Bard, and they asked me to do some stuff, as a new version of the Celestial Railroad was about to be published. There have been people who have played it here and there: Either they made up their own editions or not, but they didn’t have access to the right material. So there now is a scholarly edition. They asked me to play that, and the Concord and the Quarter-Tone Pieces. So while I was [preparing] that, I was in touch with David Porter, and a friend of his, a younger guy named Thomas Brodhead, who edited the Celestial Railroad. I was talking to both of them about the Concord. It’s interesting because it shares a lot of musical material [with Celestial Railroad]. I must have seen six or seven different versions of the opening pages of the Hawthorne. You can’t make sense of it based on the text. And it’s also interesting when you see all the revisions: it’s not necessarily the case that the piece gets better.

Parts of the Anti-Abolitionist Riots have Emerson sources also, but the guy who did it didn’t know about it and for years, this drove Porter crazy, which is why I originally heard from him. I had recorded one of Ives’ studies, and I got this note out of the blue, this crazy, super-intense note, saying it was great I had done this, but my edition was no good. I had just gone out and bought it. I thought this guy’s nuts. Three days later I got this package in the mail. He was right! So I called him up and had this bizarre conversation with him.

To be continued...
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 8:01 pm    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

Continued from above...

Do you think Ives had any sense that things can have a definitive version?

I don’t think he did with the Emerson music. He writes that he enjoys the pleasure of never having to finish it. The change in the music really became like the Emersonian quest... There are three different endings. There are all sorts of disparities...

David Porter’s philosophy was to take the maximalist approach: put in the most. He is now quite embraced by the Ives Society, but when I met him, David and Tom were outside the powers that be, and I tried to actually get them [invited]. All these Ives scholars came to Bard, and I talked to the Festival; “I think you really should invite Brodhead, because he made this edition [of the Celestial Railroad], and I think you ought to have this guy Porter: he’s nuts, but he’s the real thing.”

Now they know it... and they’re very happy to have him, but then he was just this weird guy... He’s kind of not ready-for-prime-time! He must be about six-foot-seven, he has a [big] beard like this, and he’s about 50. He’s a real character. He can’t really get a job, but he opens his eyes in the morning, and the first thing he thinks about is Ives.

After the Bard events, I was talking to him, and he suddenly said “I figured it out!” Everybody thought the Emerson Concerto was lost, but he said, “no no no, I found it...I figured out how it works... It’s all there, it’s just not in consecutive pages.” The indication was that the Ives society put out some scholarly editions. They were hot off the press, but they were wrong. The people who did them just didn’t have the right material.

So when he said that he [had the Emerson] I knew we really ought to try to do this. He has no money, and the Ives Society doesn’t have much money, so if Cleveland hadn’t picked this up, eventually ten years from now, this would have been done. No one would have figured out the rights. Apparently the music is owned by the Academy of Arts and Letters. But for the rights: Presser has some, and Schirmer has some, it was a mess to figure it out.

How did you deal with the overlaps?

The executive director of the orchestra really had to get in there. The orchestra got behind it totally. It just wouldn’t have happened, and eventually ten years from now, the Ives society would have put on a concert at Yale with the student orchestra, and the piece would have disappeared.

So who was the driving force behind it? Were you already onboard at this point?

I was very interested to do it, of course, and to see it. I also frankly thought that David needed it. He was the Rodney Dangerfield of Ives scholarship, he just couldn’t get a break, and he really deserved it, and now he’s gotten [recognition.] He did a paper for the Ives Society which apparently knocked people out.

Does he ever think of himself as a composer?

He is a kind of composer, though I haven’t seen any of his work. He’s a very bright guy, and he’s a heavy duty scholar. He has a book he’s preparing, or an article, and when I saw it, it was 120 pages about how he did [the Emerson], with 50 pages of musical examples. And it’s the real thing.

But the score is not a performing edition. Actually that remains to be done. It’s not like somebody said, “This piece would work better with a few more violins here” Porter made no decisions like that. It’s only what Ives said.

At first the Ives Society was having little to do with him. I knew that Cleveland had done a fair amount of Ives, and that Christophe liked Ives. It’s one of the orchestras that I have a good relationship with, and I adore them, and I’ve done a bunch of stuff with them. So I knew executive director Tom Morris would be interested in a project like this. I called Tom up and I told him about it, and I said, “what do you think?” I was confident they would look at it on its artistic merits.

There’s been a lot of skepticism about those Universe Symphonies. [Another unfinished and completely mythical Ives work, which surfaces every few years in a new and “definitive” version -Ed.] Most of those are not Ives, really not Ives, and are in hysterically different versions. The person to talk to about that is David, who made a little edition of only the material that exists, and then I think had actually the first performance of that, and then went nuts when all these other people who are good at self-promotion did it and got it completely wrong. So the next move after that was that they brought David out to Cleveland, and as I said to Tom afterwards, I would have given anything to see that first meeting between Christophe von Dohnányi and David Porter.

David lives in the desert somewhere. He doesn’t have a car, he doesn’t drive, he looks like Paul Bunyan, and he’s funny; he calls me after the meeting and says, “Alan, yeah, they put me in a nice hotel, and Alan, you know, in this hotel room, there’s a little refrigerator, it has drinks, you know, you can buy drinks, but you know, the next time I come back to Ohio, I’m bringing my own liquor with me, because the liquor is unbelievably expensive here!” You see what I mean! And apparently the artistic administrator had a pre-meeting with him, to try to prep him for Christophe, and apparently it was some time before he understood what David was talking about, but then they had the meeting, and he made himself clear, and they were impressed, and they decided to go the next level and see about the rights, and so it all started with a phone call. And what’s great is that the piece has so far gotten a lot of publicity.

Of course!

Well, not of course. It should, but what’s been really interesting is that it’s very rare that a piece of music really ever gets publicity. Its the Three Tenors, it’s Yo Ma, it’s a personality, it’s the orchestra--but there was a television special, and there was a National Public Radio segment, and a fair amount of press, and what was interesting about it was that it was about a piece of music. One of the Cleveland orchestra people came back on the opening night, and said, “we’re just overwhelmed, we expected to get some publicity, but we didn’t expect this much,” and I said, “me too” and of course it deserves this, but it’s just so unusual for a piece of music to get this. It wasn’t me and it wasn’t Cleveland. You realize how unhealthy the world is in that it doesn’t happen more often. And there are a dozen events in a year that deserve national attention, premieres, or whatever.

Next...Ives crafts a Sonata movement out of the concerto...
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 1:16 am    Post subject: If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

Continued from above...

Porter writes:

Ives abandoned plans for the Emerson Concerto, but not its music. First he “translated” some of it (as he put it) into the first movement of his Sonata No. 2 for Piano: Concord, Mass., on which he was working during 1911–15.

In September of 1911, Ives was at Elk Lake, NY with his wife, vacationing with in-laws when an idea for a piece came to him.

In his diary he wrote "Idea of Concord Sonata"...by the summer of 1912 the first movement (the first draft) was finished.

Here is a scan of the beginning of the Emerson movement:



Notice that there is no key signature (at this point) or measure lines...it looks like a mess, and for a poor pianist like myself, impossible to play! Like a sentence out of Finnegan's Wake, one line of information contains alot of information, some more buried than others. There is apparently no 'linear' perspective, like a de Kooning picture we get everything at once:

[from Ives's Essays Before A Sonata]

The mud may be a form of sincerity which demands that
the heart be translated, rather than handed around through the
pit. A clearer scoring might have lowered the thought. Carlyle
told Emerson that some of his paragraphs didn't cohere. Emerson
wrote by sentences or phrases, rather than by logical sequence.
His underlying plan of work seems based on the large unity of a
series of particular aspects of a subject, rather than on the
continuity of its expression. As thoughts surge to his mind, he
fills the heavens with them, crowds them in, if necessary, but
seldom arranges them, along the ground first. Among class-room
excuses for Emerson's imperfect coherence and lack of unity, is
one that remembers that his essays were made from lecture notes.
His habit, often in lecturing, was to compile his ideas as they
came to him on a general subject, in scattered notes, and when on
the platform, to trust to the mood of the occasion, to assemble
them. This seems a specious explanation, though true to fact.
Vagueness, is at times, an indication of nearness to a perfect
truth. The definite glory of Bernard of Cluny's Celestial City,
is more beautiful than true--probably. Orderly reason does not
always have to be a visible part of all great things. Logic may
possibly require that unity means something ascending in self-
evident relation to the parts and to the whole, with no ellipsis
in the ascent. But reason may permit, even demand an ellipsis,
and genius may not need the self-evident part. In fact, these
parts may be the "blind-spots" in the progress of unity. They may
be filled with little but repetition. "Nature loves analogy and
hates repetition."


In photoshop I color coded the main motifs (or in this case, the main musical ideas, as there are no 'set' motives with Ives):



The two main ideas appear to be the green and red colored notes.

The green colored notes=what Ives called 'the human faith melody.' A decending (and sometimes acsending) note figure (an Ives original melody) you start to recognize after awhile.
The red colored notes=the Beethoven 5th motive:

[from Essays...]

There is an "oracle" at the beginning of Beethoven's Fith Symphony--in those four notes lies one of Beethoven's greatest messages. We would place its translation above the relentlessness of fate knocking on the door...and strive to bring it toeard the spiritual message of Emerson;s revelations--even to the "common heart" of Concord--the soul of humanity knocking at the door of the Divine mysteries, radiant in the faith that it will be opened--and that the human will become the Divine!

The human faith melody and the Beethoven 5th are the heart of the whole work.

The blue and yellow colored notes seem exclusive to the Emerson movement. I don't have a name for the blue colored note motive here, but at one point the 'blue note' theme is played by the horns in the Piano Concerto version. The yellow notes appear here and there, but it's been awhile since I studied this piece (and I can't get into more detail regarding them at this time), but they seem to move along fast in groups of three (like a 6/8 time signature).

Not every note in the work is related to these motives (and no scholar can agree on the exact number of motives), but the primal "human faith' and Beethoven motives are well known and heard.

Like the Emerson concerto, the descending half-step figure that opens the movement is everywhere...sometimes hidden in the texture, sometimes in the foreground, Then there's the Beethoven 5th theme, and then the softer, more delicate themes that seem to be variations of the "human faith" melody.

Like a Jazz instrumentalist, Ives basically reinvents these motives over and over again throughout Emerson and beyond. Nothing is 'permanent'...the motives are never stated the same way twice:

[from Essays Before A Sonata]
The dislike of inactivity, repose and barter, drives one to the
indefinite subjective. Emerson's lack of interest in permanence
may cause him to present a subjectivity harsher on the outside
than is essential. His very universalism occasionally seems a
limitation. Somewhere here may lie a weakness--real to some,
apparent to others--a weakness in so far as his relation becomes
less vivid--to the many; insofar as he over-disregards the
personal unit in the universal. If Genius is the most indebted,
how much does it owe to those who would, but do not easily ride
with it? If there is a weakness here is it the fault of substance
or only of manner?


In the Concord Sonata score, Ives does mention the contrast between Emerson's prose and poetry, and seeks to express this in the Emerson music. The prose sections of the work have no meter (a masculine trait), yet the poetry sections are set within various musical meters (a feminine trait). As Jan Swafford comments:

The piece [Emerson] alternates between sections Ives called Prose and Verse, corresponding to the contrasting theme-sections of sonata form: the prose tending to be craggy, searching, heroic; the verse to be placid and lyrical.



To be continued...
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