Not only does Charles Ives fall under the heading of “Famous People from Connecticut” he also wrote the fabulous Symphony #4 which I just heard at Symphony Hall. The program was Sibelius and Rachmaninoff in the first half with the Ives following after intermission.
I have always enjoyed Ives because of his boldness, and the sheer joy that he took in sound. His music always sounds like he was exploring some new sound, simply trying to create something interesting and new. In an odd comparison, the other artists I feel the same way about are Radiohead. What’s pleasant about Ives is that, unlike many other composers of his era, he wasn’t afraid of beautiful sound. There was an unfortunate period when everything agreeable was frowned upon – too ‘easy’, I suppose. But Ives found the middle ground and managed to be innovative without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The orchestration for Ives’ 4th includes theremin. The thrill of hearing such a unique instrument lives was magnified by the fact that it makes the player (who this evening was front and center) look like an absolute crazy person. There was choir, organ, your run-of-the-mill orchestral forces, and a percussionist who had to stand up on scaffolding to reach his bells.
I always meant to purchase the collection of Ives songs (and sing many of them). A few of my favorites are Memories and Down East – go forth and do your listening! And check out the 4th as well. I might go hear it again at the BSO in the next few days.