Autumnal Ives

Earth rests! Her work is done, her fields lie bare, and ‘ere the night of winter comes to hush her song and close her tired eyes, She turns her face for the sun to smile upon and radiantly, radiantly, thro’ Fall’s bright glow, he smiles and brings the Peace of God! These lines may have been written by Harmony Twichell, the wife of Charles Ives. They form the text of Ives’ hypnotic 1908 song, Autumn. Listen …

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Discarded (and Salvaged) Ives

Charles Ives’ Largo for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano is the result of an interesting compositional evolution. It began life as the second movement of a violin sonata Ives wrote as a student, but it was later discarded and replaced with a different slow movement based on The Old Oaken Bucket. In 1902, this music was salvaged and transformed, perhaps as part of a now lost trio. The irregular opening piano ostinato lulls us into a …

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Remembering Violinist Paul Zukofsky

Earlier this week, news broke that American violinist Paul Zukofsky passed away on June 6 at the age of 73. The son of poet Louis Zukofsky, Paul Zukofsky was a student of Ivan Galamian at the Juilliard School. He specialized in twentieth century repertoire, working extensively with composers such as Philip Glass, Morton Feldman, and John Cage. Let’s listen to Zukofsky’s 1964 recording of Charles Ives’ Violin Sonata No. 4: “Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting” with pianist Gilbert Kalish. Begun …

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10 Musical Adaptations of “God Save the Queen”

On Monday, Britain celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Sapphire Jubilee, marking her 65 years on the throne. At 90, Her Majesty is the world’s longest-reigning monarch. The milestone reminded me of the nearly 140 composers who have created musical adaptations of God Save the Queen, an ancient melody that may have originated in plainchant long before it was attributed to the English composer and organ-builder John Bull in 1619. Here are ten of the most …

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New Release: Montreal Symphony’s “Danse Macabre” Celebrates the Supernatural

Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony have released a spooky new album on the Decca label just in time for Halloween. Danse Macabre features some well-known favorites as well as some surprises. Paul Dukas’ colorful tone poem, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is full of sparkling wizardry and adventure. This passage must have influenced John Williams’ film score for Star Wars. Also included is Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. (I offered a few thoughts on this ghoulish piece along with …

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Psalm 90: Charles Ives’ Time-Altering Swan Song

When you think of Charles Ives (1874-1954), the visionary experimental composer and New England insurance executive who assembled shocking, never-before-imagined sonic collages, what music comes to mind? Probably the enigmatic Unanswered Question. Perhaps the dense, American folk-song-laced orchestral tone poems or the harmonically advanced Concord Sonata. But beyond all of this lies another side of Ives. By the age of 14, he was an organist of immense technical skill. (At 17, Ives described his fiendishly difficult, …

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A Charles Ives Fourth

Firecrackers, a cannon on the village green, an out-of-step band on Main Street, a fife and drum corps, church bells…All of this, and more, can be heard in Charles Ives’ 1912 tone poem, The Fourth of July, which forms the third movement of the “Holidays” Symphony. Ives imagined the larger-than-life festivities of a small New England town, as experienced by a child. But this music goes far deeper than the quaint Americana of Ives’ …

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