Nobody takes credit in the packaging for the basic idea behind Naxos' complete edition of the songs of Charles Ives: the distribution of the pieces among a large group of mostly young singers. But it's a great way of doing them. With a few exceptions, they are reasonable in their technical demands. They cover an enormous stylistic range, from more or less straightforward German Romantic songs to borrowings from many kinds of American vernacular music to Ives' unique musical transcendentalism. This disc, the second in the set, involves no fewer than 14 different singers (several singers get multiple songs) and five accompanists, performing songs dating from 1893, during Ives' youth, to 1921's Disclosure and The Greatest Man, at the very end of his career. The program never feels like a jumble, and in fact the singers have generally been well matched to their material. Sample by way of demonstration track 4, Dreams, with its theatrical sentimentality effectively delivered by tenor Kenneth Tarver, or the rather mysterious baritone of Robert Gardner in Down East, track 3. The recordings, though made over several months, were all done in the same venue: Sprague Hall at Yale University, lending further coherence to the whole. The only real objection here is the several pairs of Ives songs in which he set a German poem in German and then again in English -- a phenomenon that's worth a disc of its own -- are broken up among different discs in the series. But that won't be a problem for the many collectors and libraries who will be acquiring the entire set. And those buyers will be quite satisfied with what they're getting, at least, those with good Internet connections will be, for song texts are online only despite the fact that there was room in the booklet for 20 pages of Naxos advertising.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim