First published in the Guardian on 6 July, 2017
Ives: Three Places in New England, Orchestral Set no. 2, New England Holidays
Seattle Symphony/Morlot (Seattle Symphony)
What music would Charles Ives have written about today’s America? His portraits of New England from a century ago are so stunningly prescient with their bluster and awe, their undertows of dread and dysfunction. He knew how to capture the feeling of being engulfed by forces too big and messy to make neat sense of: instead of trying to tidy and rationalise, he piled stuff up and let the clashes ring out. This album is the third in an Ives series from conductor Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony. They do brilliantly atmospheric things in the dankest passages of Three Places and New England Holidays -– mercurial textures full of suggestion and threat. But I’m less convinced by their barn dances and fireworks. The glee sounds studied, the celebrations don’t have enough abandon.