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Ives Plays Ives
Charles Ives
Ives Plays Ives
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (39) - Disc #1

In his lifetime, maverick composer Charles Ives entered the recording studio only four times, mostly to hear (and tinker with) his works in progress. He ended up doing 42 takes of 17 different pieces on the piano, all reco...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Charles Ives
Title: Ives Plays Ives
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Composers Recordings
Release Date: 9/21/1999
Album Type: Import
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Classical
Styles: Marches, Vocal Pop, Chamber Music, Forms & Genres, Sonatas, Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830), Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 090438081023

Synopsis essential recording
In his lifetime, maverick composer Charles Ives entered the recording studio only four times, mostly to hear (and tinker with) his works in progress. He ended up doing 42 takes of 17 different pieces on the piano, all recorded between 1933 and 1943: everything from snippets of the unfinished Emerson Concerto to his rousing wartime anthem "They Are There!" It's a varied lot, to say the least, but now we have his complete recordings on one CD. The sound quality isn't great and you can easily hear how frustrated Ives is by the newfangled technology (recording techniques restricted his playing to five minute chunks). That said, you couldn't ask for a greater insight into the composer. Most of these pieces derive from Ives's unfinished Emerson concerto for piano and orchestra, but the entire package is one big treasure chest. Here we have the composer at work: improvising, (occasionally) frustrated, frenzied, and--most of all--creative. His playing is as off-the-wall as you can imagine: fast, improvised, with failed notes galore, and occasionally spot-on. Highlights abound--just check out "The Alcotts" from the Concord Sonata (No. 2) to hear him at his performance peak--but the most memorable cuts feature Ives himself singing. His three versions of the wartime anthem "We Are There!" should give hope to any struggling vocalist... for a career either selling insurance or composing great music. Yes, his voice is simply awful, but the music and history contained on this disc are breathtaking. --Jason Verlinde

CD Reviews

A producer's perspective
David G. Porter | Anaheim, California | 01/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Well, since I was one of the three engineers who worked on this album and since no customers have posted reviews, I'd like to add some comments on how parts of this CD were produced and how its material was researched prior to production.Some of this music was released in 1974 as part of the Columbia Ives centenary album. Those cuts were chosen mostly by John Kirkpatrick and used analog tape transfers from 1960. For this CD, every recording that we have has been included, and with one exception all tracks are based on new DAT transfers made last year. In the 1974 release, two selections were assembled from four takes to make a more "listenable" product, with the overlaps deleted. Here, every track is separate and complete.Before we began any work on this album, Jim Sinclair and I spent many months identifying the specifics of the various takes. Ives recorded the same music in different ways over the years, sometimes adding new material, sometimes omitting it, sometimes substituting new passages for earlier passages and then abandoning them. All this was identified before we started studio production. A summary of all the recording's contents can be found in Jim's "Descriptive Catalogue of the Music of Charles Ives."The aluminum disks made at Ives' residence suffered from lowered pitch and needed to be sped up approximately 6%. Two later studio cuts have the same problem. One of them varied so widely in pitch that it was deemed proper for an attempt at manual correction. (Our theory is that an inattentive engineer of 1938 was absent-mindedly leaning against the lathe during recording.) Those who can compare the 1974 release of the "Largo" from Symphony No. 1 (incorrectly identified on the 1974 release as belonging to Symphony No. 2) and this CD release will be in for a big surprise. While there is still some "bend" in the pitch it is now quite stable and consistent (the result of my working four hours on this one track, twisting the pitch control knob on an open reel machine with my ear as my only guide as the track was transfered back to DAT, making it perhaps the most expensive two minutes in music history!).We did not attempt to eliminate all the skips from the soft aluminum disks. While this was possible, it was thought better to minimize the number skips to only one per event. Each was a skip backwards, so no material was lost. Those listeners with enough skill at using an open reel tape and a splicing block will easily be able to finish the project if they so wish.Frank Zappa had a term for putting the final "zest" into the performance of his music, "putting the eyebrows on it." Anyone who has seen Ives' piano music should hear for him- or herself how Ives put "the eyebrows" on the music of the Studies and their varied guises as cadenzas in the "Emerson" music ("Abolitionist Riot in Boston in [the 18]50s"), the "Alcotts" movement from "Concord," and his "War March" entitled "They Are There." The music as written is often merely a springboard for Ives' wild interpretive style.Other CDs of Ives' piano music I would recommend for comparative listening are Alan Mandel's pioneering set (now on Vox) of the "complete" piano music (unfortunately lacking the "Four Transcriptions from 'Emerson'"), Marc-Andre Hamelin's recording of "Concord" (the best I have heard to date), Daan Vandewalle's recording of "Concord" and some of the Studies, and Donald Berman's recording of the "Unknown Ives," which features premiere recordings and recordings of new editions, some bse on Ives' own recorded interpretations."
More Old Songs Deranged
Bryan Thalhammer | Champaign, Ill. | 02/12/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"David G. Porter wrote, "since no customers have posted reviews," I felt sad. I listened to the tracks, and afterwards, wanted to contribute.My H.S. Latin teacher once tell me, "you do not become mature all at once, you become mature in different things at different times and at different rates." I thought of this as I listened to some of the items Ives played from Emerson.Way back, when I first heard the "ear study" by Ives, "Chromatimelodtune," I knew this was a special oeuvre. For most people, it was unlistenable, but I actually whistle parts of it as some people do more familiar stuff. I have always liked outliers and extreme juxtapositions, and I thought Ives was special for special moments.The present CD is great music for energetic painting, even going through old sales slips, or creating a new eggplant recipe. (No joke!) At first, I couldn't believe my ears! I marvelled how Ives would "get going good," and then the transcription disc came to an end. I wondered what would have happened afterwards. When he exclaimed, "oh, I have to stop," I listened even more intently to the next take. It takes some attention...What would the world have been like if Ives had worked with the likes of Orpheus Quartett? If they would have had a chance to work with him, jam with him, and developed the natural culmination of these recording sessions. How would that interaction have sounded?Thanks to the people at CRI who have preserved these recordings and allowed people like me to have a window on Ives in his most private moments. I have always thought Ives neat, and now I will become further mature in this collection. Wow.Cool CD, David!"
Man and machine
Bryan Thalhammer | 04/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a fantastic peek at the complexities of the recording art.. Charlie was lucky to have access to recording technology, and yet it was quite frustrating for him.Easy to forget the 'miracle.' John Kirkpatrick once told me that his recording of the Concord required something like 43 different 'takes' (if you will); I guess I had assumed it was just one run through.I'm grateful for all the 'Emerson' here. It is my favorite part of Concord. I heard some of these recordings back in '73, and they really have been lovingly upgraded. Thank you for making these available to us."