Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 2
Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic Orchestra
The name of Ives used to scare me, musically speaking. Weird, wacky and plinky-plonk… at least, that was his reputation as far as I had heard/learnt of it. Then I discovered he is basically an American version of Australia’s own Percy Grainger: pretty good tunes that go off and do their own thing, regardless of what else might be going around them. It’s just glorious, chaotic fun… and though the result of playing three different and unrelated tunes at the same time can maybe sound ear-wincing at times, it’s just done so boisterously that I can’t help smiling! This symphony, for examples, ends with two ‘brass bands’ playing against each other: it sounds like what might happen if two University football team’s support bands decided to play at the same ground at the same time. The final chord is worth an Oscar™ all on its own! Short version: have no fear of Ives!