Saturday, July 04, 2009

What I am Listening to Today

For the 4th of July, of course some American music:

Charles Ives: "Three Places in New England"
Carl Ruggles: "Sun Treader"
Walter Piston Symphony # 2
Michael Tilson Thomas
Boston SO Deutsche Grammophone 463 633 2

Piston's Symphonies are frequently labeled "academic", and indeed they are finely crafted works. But they are far from dry, never out stay their welcome and are certainly worth hearing from time to time, as opposed to some of the even more drearily same music our orchestras play.

Ruggles was an individualist, a bit of an iconoclast and quite a personality. "Sun Treader" is given an intense, macho performance that I am sure Ruggles would have loved.

Ives' well known tone poem in 3 parts is one of his most deservedly popular works. This is another exciting, yet frequently subtle performance that never fails to bring out the colorful writing, perfectly capturing the quiet mist of the Housatonic River and the brassy exuberance of "Putnam's Camp".

One of the best, if not the best, compilations of American music ever recorded.

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