Ludovic Morlot / Seattle Symphony Orchestra

Ives: Symphony No. 2; Carter: Instances; Gershwin: An American in Paris

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The Seattle Symphony Orchestra under longtime conductor Gerard Schwarz often played American music, and it is encouraging to see the trend continue under the baton of Frenchman Ludovic Morlot. This album marks one of the first releases on the orchestra's own Seattle Symphony Media label, and it bodes well for the group's effort to offer something distinctive in the increasingly crowded field of in-house-label productions. The album is unorthodox in both content and execution. Although all are American composers of the 20th century, not everyone would put Charles Ives, Elliott Carter, and George Gershwin together on a single program: Gershwin and Carter perhaps represent the two opposite poles of American music. However, there are good reasons to do so. As annotator Paul Schiavo points out, Carter knew Ives as a young man. And Morlot gives Gershwin's An American in Paris a brisk, angular reading that makes it into an unlikely but successful counterpart to Carter's rhythmic manipulations in Instances. Perhaps the best reason is the presence of that work itself, composed by Carter in 2012 at the awe-inspiring age of 103 and losing not a step in terms of structural density. It was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony. All the recordings were made live, and several interesting observations emerge: although the Ives gets a big cheer no audience reaction is included for the Carter, and the Gershwin is spliced together from three separate performances. The overall product, though, is highly listenable and well recorded, and the program just might make some converts in the middle ground from either extreme.

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