Symphony No. 4 (Ives)
The Symphony No. 4, S. 4 (K. 1A4) by Charles Ives (1874–1954) was written between the years of 1910 and 1916. The symphony is notable for its multi-layered complexity - usually necessitating two conductors in performance - and for its oversized orchestra. Combining elements and techniques of Ives's previous compositional work, this has been called "one of his most definitive works"; Ives' biographer, Jan Swafford, has called it "Ives's climactic masterpiece."
The symphony is in four movements:
- Prelude: Maestoso
- Fugue: Andante moderato con moto
- Very slowly - Largo maestoso
Although the symphony requires a large orchestra, the duration is only about half an hour.
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This movement and the third movement were first performed in New York City on January 29, 1927. In contrast to Ives's other works for large orchestra, which begin in quiet and meditative moods, this symphony starts with a strong, maestoso, fortissimo bass line, immediately followed by a rising trumpet fanfare. A quiet passage follows. The movement ends with chorus singing the Epiphany hymn Watchman ("Watchman, tell us of the night.") Unlike the bold beginning, the movement dies away, quadruple-pianissimo, at the end.
Ives bases this "Comedy" movement on Hawthorne's story The Celestial Railroad. It is possibly his most extreme essay in overlapping of multiple thematic material, found also in his Holidays Symphony. Tunes quoted include The Sweet By and By, Beulah Land, Marching Through Georgia, Ye Christian Heralds, Jesus, Lover of my Soul and Nearer, my God, to Thee. The complexity of this movement means that at least one additional conductor is normally required. The music builds to several riotous climaxes before ebbing away.
First performed in New York on May 10, 1933 with the first movement, this is an apparently straightforward, academic fugue, ending with a brief quotation of Joy to the World. Ives called it "an expression of the reaction of life into formalism and ritualism." Paradoxically, because of its juxtaposition with the other three harmonically, tonally and rhythmically complex movements, Jan Swafford calls this most outwardly simple and conservative movement "in a way the most revolutionary movement of all." The movement is an orchestration from the fugue in Ives's first string quartet, which he wrote while still at Yale.
The symphony ends with what Ives called "an apotheosis of the preceding content, in terms that have something to do with the reality of existence and its religious experience."
The program of the work echoes that of The Unanswered Question[original research?] — Ives said the piece was "a searching question of 'What' and 'Why' which the spirit of man asks of life". Use of quotation is again rife, especially in the first movement, and there is no shortage of novel effects. In the second movement, for example, a tremolando is heard throughout the entire orchestra. In the final movement, there is a sort of musical fight between discordant sounds and more traditional tonal music. Eventually a wordless chorus enters, the mood becomes calmer, and the piece ends quietly with just the percussion playing.
The symphony is scored for a romantic-size orchestra. The woodwind section consists of 3 flutes, 2 piccolos, 2 oboes, 3 clarinets, and 3 bassoons, with optional parts for alto, tenor and baritone saxophone. The brass section consists of 4 horns, 6 trumpets, 2 cornets, 4 trombones, and tuba. The percussion and keyboard section consists of timpani, snare drum, bass drum, tom-tom, triangle, cymbals, 2 gongs, bells, glockenspiel, harp, celesta, orchestral piano (4 hands), quarter tone piano, solo piano, and organ. In addition there is a part for a mixed chorus, who perform a setting of the hymn "Watchman, tell us of the Night" in the first movement and wordless lines in the last movement.
There is the usual string section and a second distant group of 5 violins, 1 viola and 2 harps. The score also has an optional part for an "ether organ" in the fourth movement. (It is not clear what Ives meant by this, but a theremin or a synthesizer is usually used, if any.)
History and reception
The symphony did not have a complete performance until Leopold Stokowski conducted it with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on April 26, 1965, almost 50 years after the completion of the work, and 11 years after Ives' death.
It was soon recorded by the same forces for the first time for the Columbia label.
- Kirkpatrick, John (1965). Preface to: Charles Ives, Symphony No. 4; Performance Score (facsimile edition). G. Schirmer, Inc., p.vii
- *Swafford, Jan (1988). Charles Ives: A Life With Music. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-31719-6., p.349, p.360, p.362
- Performance score, published by G. Schirmer (AMP)
- Burkholder, Peter, (work-list with James B. Sinclair and Gayle Sherwood). "Charles Ives", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed August 5, 2006), grovemusic.com
- Crutchfield, Will (October 15, 1984). "MUSIC ; American Symphony And the Ives Fourth". The New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- Stone, Kurt (1966), "Ives's Fourth Symphony: A Review", The Musical Quarterly 52, no. 1 (January): 1–16. Citation on p. 1.
- Burkholder, Peter, (work-list with James B. Sinclair and Gayle Sherwood). "Charles Ives", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed August 6, 2006), grovemusic.com (subscription access).
- Ives, Charles (1990). Symphony No. 4; Performance Score (facsimile edition). G. Schirmer, Inc.
- Stone, Kurt (1966). "Ives's Fourth Symphony: A Review". The Musical Quarterly 52, no. 1 (January): 1–16.
- Swafford, Jan (1988). Charles Ives: A Life With Music. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-31719-6.
- Burkholder, Peter (17 November 2002). "Dialogues and Extensions: CHARLES IVES: Symphony No. 4 (Ives Society Critical Edition, with editing and adaptations by James Sinclair)". American Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved 21 August 2010.