New York Philharmonic

Ives: Symphony No. 2; The Unanswered Question

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AllMusic Review by

It is regrettable that too many of Columbia's recordings of the 1950s and '60s suffered from faulty reproduction, and that they still sound boxy and fuzzy today, even with DSD remastering. Such is the case with the 1958 analog recording of Charles Ives' rollicking Symphony No. 2, one of the most popular "Ives revival" recordings made by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. In this landmark performance, the playing is ingratiating and exciting -- count on Bernstein and the NYP for fire and brusque charm -- but the orchestra's timbres and incidental noises, due to close microphone placement and dry acoustics, are scruffy and annoying. The Unanswered Question and Central Park in the Dark, recorded in 1964, are similarly afflicted with bad reproduction and extraneous noises, and the digital engineering of the original masters seems to have highlighted defects that were barely noticeable on LP. The remaining short pieces, performed in 1969 by an unidentified studio orchestra conducted by Gunther Schuller, sound even more abrasive and bothersome, since the close-up recording captures many buzzes and scrapes with indiscriminate fidelity. All the venues are problematic, but the stuffy acoustics of the New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall really suck the air out of these recordings and make them disagreeable filler, despite their intrinsic musical value.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
Symphony No. 2, for orchestra, S. 2 (K. 1A2)
1
5:55
2
10:21
3
10:43
4
2:58
5
9:20
The Unanswered Question (I & II), for trumpet, winds & string orchestra, S. 50 (K. 1C25)
6
5:37
Central Park in the Dark, for orchestra, S. 34 (K. 1C27)
7
8:03
8
2:56
9
3:27
10
1:50
11
1:11
12
4:36
13
2:42
14
1:54
15
1:00
16
5:27
blue highlight denotes track pick