I have long been an admirer of Charles Ives' music and these excellent two discs featuring the composer's four symphonies and two short works are most welcome. Andrew Litton is a fine conductor and he brings a sense of palpable direction and emotion to these often eccentric works.
The Second Symphony is perhaps the most famous of all the four and Litton compares well to Leonard Bernstein's legendary recordings of the work (CBS and DG) and he rather supersedes Kenneth Schermerhorn's slightly earthbound account on Naxos. The First Symphony is beautifully played by the talented Dallas players although I would still gravitate towards Neeme Järvi's slightly clearer account on Chandos with the Detroit Symphony.
The Third, a wonderful rendition of 'The Camp Meeting' is also beautifully done by Litton although I would not discount Sir Neville Marriner's lovely recording for Argo on Decca Ovation. The Fourth is a slightly tougher nut to crack with the famous José Serebrier and Leopold Stokowski recordings leading the pack but Litton does the work full justice.
Hyperion also add two short pieces, typical of Ives, the barnstorming 'General William Booth enters into Heaven' and the eerie 'Central Park in the dark'. A dry, yet clear recording should suffice for these symphonies to regain clout in the repertoire.
Copyright © 2007, Gerald Fenech