The last concert in my Monte-Carlo was disappointing. The Berio flew, but the premiere dawdled, and an over-sized string section struggled to bring Ives's first symphony alive.
Flick through the rest of the Monte-Carlo Spring Festival brochure and you’ll see Berio’s Sequenzas peppered throughout the remaining concerts. That in itself is a daring move from a ticket sales point of view, but one that does pay dividends.
Like the harp
Viola player Ieva Sruogyté confronted, grappled, and tamed an aggressive work. This was storytelling with grit, power, and determination. With this work, in particular, I think there’s a need that the performance continues for a few seconds after the final note is played.
Composer Erica Montalbetti's Eclair
Charles Ives first symphony was a student work whilst the composer was at Yale University in the late 1890s, making use of compositional styles from late European romantic composers, like Tchaikovsky, Dvorak and Beethoven. The effect on first-listen is not unlike that strangely unsettling experience of hearing the imitative music utilised in the Simpsons in a bid to avoid a stinging copyright bill. Ives’s thorough compositional methodology making dating a work difficult, but what comes through loud and clear in the first symphony is his thoroughness, the tidiness of the church hymn music tradition which influenced him through his Yale tutor Horatio Parker.
Sure, I know, it appears like I’ve just read that stuff in a book and regurgitated it. You’re partially right. But only because there’s something odd about Ives’ music – the range, the imitation, the differing compositional styles – which makes me curious. That in itself helps stop me from wholly dismissing his music.
Ives’s studious creation failed to come alive for me, though the performance hasn’t dented my appetite for learning more about the composer.