A fine recording of some of the best of Charles Ives music.

IVES: Symphonies, Vol. 3 = Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Orchestral Set No. 2 – Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, p., Sir Andrew Davis/ Melbourne Sym. Orch. – Chandos CHAN 5174 71:04 (3/17/17) ****:

This is the third disc in a Chandos series featuring the orchestral music of American composer Charles Ives.

Ives had a bit of a renaissance beginning in the late sixties after being championed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Leonard Bernstein and the New Yorkers. Ives is still popular today, even without the Bernstein hoopla, and Chandos gives an excellent disc with Sir Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and soloists.

After a nicely done performance of the Orchestral Set no. 2 by Ives, there is a stirring version of the Symphony No. 3 “The Camp Meeting”. It’s my favorite of the Ives symphonies, so I was excited to hear this new recording. Ives wrote the symphony between 1901 and 1904 on weekends while he spent his days working in an insurance office. The work was not premiered until 1946, and it won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize.

The music is based on hymns from the period, and organ music that Ives wrote and later adapted for this symphony. I think the Australians get this symphony right, although I still have affection for the Philadelphia and New York recordings. The pace here is brisk, and the 5.0 surround sound makes for a very realistic ‘live’ sound with the orchestra spread widely up front and the ambiance of the hall lightly present in the rear channels.

The disc closes with the Symphony No. 4. Written between about 1910 and 1925, it’s a multi-layered work, difficult to play, and at times multiple conductors have been used because different parts of the orchestra are playing in different meters. This disc follows that convention, with Sir Andrew being assisted by Brett Kelly and Anthony Pasquill.

The performance here is precise and yet emotional, capturing Ives’ playfulness and erratic rhythms. Again, the recording here is first rate, making this an almost required recording for fans of Ives.

I think the series is a must buy for Ives lovers. The performances are all you could expect, the Chandos sound is natural and wide in dynamics so this is a fine package as are the other discs in this continuing series.

– Mel Martin