Orchestral Set No. 1 (Three Places in New England); Orchestral Set No. 2; A Symphony: New England Holidays Seattle Symphony Chorale and Orchestra/ludovic Morlot Seattle Symphony Media SSM 1015 78:08 mins
Charles Ives’s collages, composed at the turn of the last century, present cut ’n’ paste tales of celebration, tradition and ideals. This is the third disc of his works released by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and their music director Ludovic Morlot. It comprises concert performances recorded at the orchestra’s Washington home, Benaroya Hall, and is distributed by the ensemble’s enterprising in-house label, Seattle Symphony Media.
Three Places in New England is a meditation on the American Civil War, racial inequality and tragic loss. It is typically Ivesian in that it combines multiple story arcs, motifs and musical realism – such as the opening to the second movement, which features a marching band to signify a Fourth of July picnic. The Seattle Symphony Orchestra captures the dreamlike state, taking on the different characters as the narratives weave in and out of the overarching story of revolution.
Orchestral Set No. 2 (Three Places in New England is sometimes referred to as Orchestral Set No. 1) explores similar themes, but in a more abstract way; Morlot handles the complex polyphony well. The final movement – an ode to British ocean liner RMS Lusitania, which was sunk during the First World War, killing more than 1,000 passengers – includes a ghostly offstage chorus, sung here by the Seattle Symphony Chorale, who emphasise the hymn-like style to great effect. The singers also appear in the subsequent New England Holidays, a four-movement work that depicts annual festivities. Claire Jackson
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