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Ives Symphony No. 4 - Stokowski - Introduction & Performance + Score + Analysis

Charles Ives's 4th Symphony was given its World Premiere in 1965 by Leopold Stokowski and the American Symphony Orchestra. A few days later they made work's first recording and also played it in a televised studio performance, seen here, which was introduced by Stokowski and others, including co-conductors Jose Serebrier and David Katz, and John McClure, producer of the CBS recording.

From the BSO's Classical Companion. This video is the analysis of the fourth symphony of Charles Ives. The Boston Symphony under Alan Gilbert perform this symphony at Symphony Hall, March 5-12, 2009. Broadcast of the BBC Proms, 2007. Ralph van Raat plays the piano part of Ives' Symphony No.4 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Robertson in the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Ives - Symphony № 4 [Audio + Score]

Charles Ives [1874 - 1954] - Symphony № 4 [1924]

I. Prelude: Maestoso [0:03]

II. Comedy: Allegretto [3:32]

III. Fugue: Andante moderato con moto [16:17]

IV. Finale: Very slowly – Largo maestoso [24:34]

"[The first] movement and the second movement were first performed in the Town Hall, New York City, on January 29, 1927 by 50 members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on a Pro Musica International Referendum Concert conducted by Eugene Goossens. While 50 players are sufficient for the chamber-like scoring of the first movement, the second movement in reality requires almost twice as many players, yet this was Ives's only experience of hearing any parts of the Symphony performed live. In contrast to Ives's other works for large orchestra, which begin in quiet and meditative moods, the first-movement Prelude starts with a strong, maestoso, fortissimo bassline, immediately followed by a rising trumpet fanfare. A quiet passage follows. The movement ends with chorus singing John Bowring's Epiphany hymn Watchman ("Watchman, tell us of the night"). Unlike the bold beginning, the movement dies away, quadruple-pianissimo, at the end.

Ives bases this "Comedy" movement on Hawthorne's story 'The Celestial Railroad', itself a trope on John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. It is an orchestral expansion—not merely a simple orchestration—of Ives's piano solo, The Celestial Railroad (ca. 1924). As such, the 'Comedy' movement is a composition of the 1920s, and may represent one of Ives's last orchestral endeavors. It is his most extreme essay in overlapping thematic material, found also in his Holidays Symphony, but is most complex in its use of multimetrics and temporal dyssynchronies, and is compositionally his most complex orchestral work. Tunes quoted include 'The Sweet By and By', 'Beulah Land', 'Marching Through Georgia', 'Ye Christian Heralds', 'Jesus, Lover of my Soul' and 'Nearer, my God, to Thee'. The disjunctive metrical and temporal complexity of this movement requires at least one additional conductor. The music builds to several riotous climaxes before ebbing away.

An arrangement of this movement by future film composer Bernard Herrmann (notable for his scores to Alfred Hitchcock's films) was performed in New York on May 10, 1933, but Ives's version wasn't performed until the integral premiere of the entire Symphony in 1965. It is a mild orchestral expansion (compared with the extreme expansion of the Comedy movement from its piano solo source) of a student fugue exercise Ives composed during his years at Yale University; in its orchestral form, it ends with a brief quotation of Joy to the World. Ives called it 'an expression of the reaction of life into formalism and ritualism.' Paradoxically, because of its juxtaposition with the other three harmonically, tonally and rhythmically complex movements, Ives biographer Jan Swafford calls this most outwardly simple and conservative movement 'in a way the most revolutionary movement of all.'

The symphony ends with what Ives called 'an apotheosis of the preceding content, in terms that have something to do with the reality of existence and its religious experience.' It employs a separate percussion ensemble that plays in a separate tempo from the main orchestra; the temporal relationship between the two groups changes over the course of the movement in a tightly controlled and exact manner, which is one of the many challenges facing conductors and performers. The first performance of the Finale to the symphony was part of the integral premiere of the Symphony on April 26, 1965, by the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, some 11 years after Ives's death."

American Symphony Orchestra

Leopold Stokowski, conductor

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