Friday, January 22, 2016

More than a Survival Guide to Ives's 4th

This video may be on the musicologically wonkish side for some, but I find it fascinating: it's an introduction by Thomas Brodhead to his critical and performance edition of Ives's 4th Symphony. Brodhead has taken an admirable strategy to producing practically usable performance materials that both make difficult passages more readable for individual players, sections, and conductor(s) (it can be useful to have more than one conductor for sections of the work), but also preserves the many performance options that Ives left.  Perhaps most importantly, for me, Brodhead restores the precise proportional time relationship between the main orchestra and the separate percussion ensemble in the fourth movement, something that has been basically faked in the past; this is regrettable, not least because with this relationship intact, the prescience of Ives's invention here is immediately obvious.  

2 comments:

Lisa Hirsch said...

I need to listen to that!

I once saw - on line - a composer fly off the handle at a conductor who'd said that having more readable notation was a real help to performers and would help composers get their music performed. Made sense to me, but then I'm not a composer.

Daniel Wolf said...

Lisa, the question of re-notation can be a sensitive and tricky one, depending in many cases upon how deep into the DNA of the work the composer's own notation may be. If a re-notation loses any salient or significant aspect of the work, then I'd say it's not an improvement. There is a prominent Cage conductor who prepares parts so that players have fewer of the options Cage intended for them to have; I think this is probably a mistake, leading to a potential for performances to be, in an important way, not performances of the work Cage wanted. But Brodhead seems to be erring here, if at all, on the side of providing more information rather than less.