Sep 29, 2022
In 1929, the conductor Nicolas Slonimsky contacted the American composer Charles Ives about performing one of his works. This was a bit of a surprise for Ives, since he had a checkered reputation among musicians and audience members, if they even were familiar with his name at all. In fact, he was much more famous during his lifetime as an extremely successful insurance executive! Ives mostly composed in his spare time, and his music was mostly ignored or ridiculed as that of a person suffering from a crisis of mental health. Most of his music was never performed during his lifetime, and even today, he is thought of as a great but extremely eccentric composer, and orchestras and chamber ensembles often struggle to sell tickets if his name appears on the program. But for those who love Ives, there is an almost evangelical desire to spread his music to the world. I’m one of those people, and I’m finally fulfilling a pledge to myself to do a full show devoted to a single work of arguably the greatest and most under appreciated American composer of all time, Charles Ives. The piece I chose to talk about today is Three Places in New England, or the New England Symphony, a piece that is a perfect amalgam of what makes Ives such a spectacular composer - his radical innovations, his ahead of his time experiments, his humor, his humanity, his warmth, and the staggering creativity that marked all of Ives’ great works. We’ll start with a little biography of Ives in case you’re not familiar with him, and then we’ll dive into Three Places in New England, and by the end, I hope , if you’re not already, that I will have converted you into an Ives fan for life! Join us!