Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra / Gerhard Samuel

Ives: Universe Symphony; Orchestra Set 2; Unanswered Question

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Several of Ives' compositions have been reconstructed from his complex sketches and notes. The brilliant pianist John Kirkpatrick (largely responsible for Ives' initial fame through his performance of the Concord Sonata in the 1930s) worked on several of the piano works, and composers Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison collated and completed the score of the Symphony No. 4 in the 1950s. Composer Larry Austin spent over twenty years to realize and complete the myriad materials for the Universe Symphony, faithfully and brilliantly performed here by the Cincinnati Philharmonia Orhestra, conducted by Gerhard Samual. Ives left a note inviting other composers to add to the work following his initial ideas. The first fifteen minutes of this almost 40-minute work is given over to the idea of a slowly growing and evolving "life pulse" music in which 20 percussionists play to a headphone "click track" that coordinates the simultaneous 12 different prime number meters. This is the first of three musical macro-layers. The others are: the Heavens, for four orchestras, each in different meters and tempos; and the Earth, with its "Rock formation" and "Earth chord" orchestrations. These orchestral layers appear in different combinations within the three sections or movements: Past -- from Chaos, formation of the Waters and Mountains; Present -- Earth and the Firmament, evolution in Nature and Humanity; Future -- Heaven, the rise of all to the spiritual. The second and third movements are the most similar to the "Ives' sound" of orchestrally dense works like the Fourth Symphony or the Robert Browning Overture, and sweepingly dramatic, with an almost indescribable emotional flow. In the climax of the work, all of the material sounds rush headlong to the heavens, into silence broken only by the sound of one solitary chime.

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