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Charles Ives

Publisher: AMP

Emerson Concerto (1998)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
reconstruction by David G. Porter
20 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)

  • Ensemble
    National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
    Alan Feinberg (Piano)
    James Sinclair
The Philharmonia under Christoph von Dohnányi unveiled a real curiosity, the EMERSON CONCERTO for piano and orchestra which Charles Ives began in 1907 but left incomplete, despite coming back to it on and off for about 40 years. Ives's scores are notoriously difficult to decipher. But David Porter's reconstruction finds a way through the morass of material, and has breathed life into a piece that is typically robust and uncompromising. The revived concerto is not long, but it is weighty in pronouncement. Its underlying temperament is Romantic, with some striving themes, a surging impetus and passages of rich, visionary beauty. But the music resolutely turns its back on the 19th century in its wild dissonances, its acerbic tumult and its clashes of conflicting ideas. Ives intended the concerto as a homage to the 19th-century American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Indeed, Ives's forthright individuality as a composer could be regarded as a paradigm of Emerson's doctrine of self-reliance.
Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph (London),1/1/0001
The major event of the night was the world premiere ofCharles Ives' "Emerson Concerto," for piano and orchestra, a work that melds numerous sources into a three-movement reconstruction by David G. Porter. Ives [was] a radical who stretched the bounds of the sonic art in his time [and] sounded as audacious and feisty as ever in performance by the Cleveland Orchestra under music director Christoph van Dohnányi. With [numerous] roots in other Ives pieces, the concerto's materials come from such scores as the "Concord Sonata" for piano and other keyboard works that showed Ives to be a prime exponent of the avant-garde of the early decades of the 20th century. This piece is also an example of the composer gazing in every direction, looking forward where no other creative artist had gone and casting a nostalgic ear toward the core of his musical experience. Among the influences is Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Along with such quotations are hints of tunes or sounds Ives knew when he was growing up. There are chimes to evoke the church landscapes of his Connecticut youth, wisps of delicate ideas reflecting the tender, even shy side of his nature, and massive blocks of sound layered on top of one another. The piece begins with a densely packed opening movement in which the pianist often assumes a fierce role, lavishing cluster upon cluster and rugged patterns that could depict Ives as a bold naturalist. As the work unfolds, the music becomes contemplative, embracing lyrical utterances of winsome beauty. More cataclysmic notions are in store in the third movement, a typical soundscape of unpredictable Ivesian structures and expressive discourse. [With its] inner energy [and] myriad qualities, the effect of the work is startling, sometimes elusive and always arresting.
Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer,1/1/0001
It's time to celebrate...This 25-minute concerto is a four-movement work in which virtuosic solo part and accompaniment work both together and against each other...each movement is a continual development of materials. There are ravishing extended solo passages. The orchestral realization is also convincingly Ivesian, looking both back to his SECOND SYMPHONY and forward to the FOURTH. The movements are [sometimes] loud and aggressive, others are more ethereal, leading to a peaceful close. The pairing of piano and orchestra seems entirely suitable for Ives, and this realization of the Emerson Concerto is a major addition to the Ives performing canon. Naxos's recorded sound is honest and natural...the EMERSON CONCERTO must be heard.
James H. North, Fanfare,1/1/0001
Ives was much taken with Emerson and wanted to create music that he thought would convey in sound the integrity and transcendence of Emerson's thought. The EMERSON CONCERTO is a reconstruction [and] what has emerged here is a 25-minute densely layered creation for piano and orchestra. This is a piece of grandeur and mystery, fascinating to hear over and over, as more of its mysteries resolve themselves or recreate themselves when a coherence you thought was there turned out on closer listening not to be.
Stephen D. Chakwin, Jr., American Record Guide,1/1/0001
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