IVES: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-4

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Charles Ives (1874-1954): Sonatas for Violin and PianoCharles Ives, a New Englander, was taught first by hisfather, then at Yale by the German-trained Horatio Parker. Ives was unique forhis time as an American composer who wrote works in the \classical-music"tradition but also drew on American popular and traditional music idioms. Alife-insurance executive professionally, he created an extraordinary body ofcompositions only later recognized as a treasurable legacy. Among Ives'schamber works are multi-movement "sets" for small ensembles, string quartets,piano sonatas, and other pieces.             Betweenabout 1902 and 1916, Charles Ives, in his mid-thirties and early forties, at thepeak of his composing career, completed four sonatas for violin and piano. Morethan any other similar cluster of his compositions in a single genre, thesesonatas all seem to be citizens of the same musical world. Each has threemovements; each includes one or more movements in "cumulative" musical form;each is tinged with the music of American Protestant hymnody and ends with afinale based on a hymn-tune; and all are comparatively "easy" pieces (by Ives'sstandards).            Nevertheless,each sonata has its own characteristics. Ives accepted the traditionalfast-slow-fast pattern of movements in Sonatas 1 and 4, but Sonatas 2 and 3 areslow-fast-slow, a non-traditional, Ivesian pattern first tried out in his ThirdSymphony. Sonatas 1 and 3 are basically abstract, with no specificextra-musical movement titles. Sonata 2, however, has such titles ("Autumn," "In the Barn," and "TheRevival"), and Sonata 4 is subtitled "Children's Day at the Camp Meeting."            Aword about the "cumulative form" that crops up in so many movements of thesesonatas (the first and last movements of Sonatas 1 and 2 and all the movementsof Sonatas 3 and 4). The term was introduced by the Ives scholar J. PeterBurkholder, in his magisterial study All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and The Usesof Musical Borrowing (1995). Such pieces begin with subtle suggestions anddevelopments of musical fragments that hint at a   pre-existent melody, then gradually work toward aculmination in which the "borrowed" melody is revealed in its simple entirety,usually with climactic effect. Essentially, Ives invented this musical form,which is the one he favored in his maturity.             Ivesoffered characteristically picturesque comments about three of the sonatas.            Ofthe First Sonata:            "Inpart a general impression, a kind of reflection and remembrance of the peoples'outdoor gatherings in which men got up and said what they thought, regardlessof consequences.             "Thefirst movement may, in a way, suggest something that nature and human naturewould sing out to each other - sometimes. The second movement, a mood when 'TheOld Oaken Bucket' and 'Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching' would comeover the hills, trying to relive the sadness of the old Civil War days. And thethird movement. The hymns and actions at the farmers' camp meeting, incitingthem to 'work for the night is coming.'"            Ofthe Third Sonata:            "Anattempt to suggest the feeling and fervor - a fervor that was often morevociferous than religious - with which the hymns and revival tunes were sung atthe camp meetings held extensively in New England in the '70s and '80s. Thetunes used or suggested are Beulah Land, There'll Be No More Sorrow, and EveryHour I Need Thee. . . . The first movement is a kind of magnified hymn of fourdifferent stanzas, all ending with the same refrain. The second movement mayrepresent a meeting where the feet and body, as well as the voice, add to theexcitement. The last movement is an experiment: the free fantasia is first; theworking-out develops into the themes, rather than from them; the coda consistsof the themes for the first time in their entirety and in conjunction. . . .The tonality throughout is supposed to take care of itself."            Ofthe Fourth Sonata ("Children's Day at the Camp Meeting"):            "Therewas usually only one Children's Day in these summer meetings, and the childrenmade the most of it - often the best of it. . . . The first movement wassuggested by an actual happening: the organist's postlude practice and theboys' fast march got to joining in each other's sounds, the loudest singerssinging wrong notes. Most of the second movement, quieter and more serious,moves around an old favorite hymn [the tune Jesus Loves Me] while theaccompaniment reflects the outdoor sounds of nature on those summer days: thewest wind in the pines and oaks, the running brook. The third movement is theboys marching again - some of the old men would join in and march as fast - to"Shall We Gather at the River."             Ives left no comments on the SecondSonata, probably thinking that its movement titles were enough. That of thefirst movement ("Autumn") refers perhaps not to the season but to the borrowedhymn-tune Autumn, usually sung to the text beginning "Mighty God! While angelsbless Thee" (but Ives preferred the second stanza, beginning "For the grandeurof Thy nature") - or perhaps to both. The second movement's square dance ("Inthe Barn") is full of old fiddle tunes: "Money Musk," "Sailor's Hornpipe," "TheWhite Cockade," "Turkey in the Straw," and a variant, as a waltz, of therefrain of "The Battle Cry of Freedom." The third movement ("The Revival") isan evocation of the gradually mounting intensity of a camp meeting, its musicbased entirely on increasingly agitated variants of the early Americanhymn-tune Nettleton (known best with the text "Come, thou fount of ev'ryblessing").            Bynow, their technical and expressive challenges welcomed by performers (and manylisteners), Ives's violin sonatas are considered among the most substantialcontributions to the violin literature by an American composer. That was hardlythe case at first. In 1914, before completing his Third Sonata, Ives invitedFranz Milcke, whom he described in his Memos of 1931-32 as a "prima donna soloviolinist . . . from Germany who has given concerts in Carnegie Hall," to tryover the First and Second Sonatas:            "The'Professor' . . . started to play the first movement of the First Sonata. Hedidn't even get through the first page. He was all bothered with the rhythmsand the notes, and got mad. He said "This cannot be played. It is awful. It isnot music, it makes no sense." He couldn't get it even after I'd played it overfor him several times . . . and said, "When you get awfully indigestible foodin your stomach that distresses you, you can get rid of it, but I cannot getthose horrible sounds out of my ears." . . . After he went, I had a kind offeeling which I've had off and on. . . . Are my ears on wrong? No one elseseems to hear it the same way."            Notuntil decades later, essentially only after World War II, years after Ives haddied, was it recognized that Ives's ears were, in fact, on just right, only farahead of his contemporaries'.H. Wiley Hitchcock (Distinguished Professor of Music emerit
Item number 8559119
Barcode 636943911921
Release date 06/01/2004
Category Violin
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Thompson, Curt
Waters, Rodney
Thompson, Curt
Waters, Rodney
Composers Ives, Charles
Ives, Charles
Producers Curt Thompson and Rodney Waters
Curt Thompson and Rodney Waters
Disc: 1
Fourth Sonata for Violin and Piano
1 Andante - Allegro vivace
2 Largo cantabile
3 Allegro
4 Autumn
5 In the Barn
6 The Revival
7 Verse 1 (Adagio) - Verse 2 (Andante) - Verse 3 (Al
8 Allegro
9 Adagio
10 Allegro
11 Largo
12 Allegro
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