Charles Ives’s oeuvre is just as extensive as it is enigmatic. If “The Unanswered Question” and “Central Park in the Dark” have achieved something like cult status, his chamber music and songs are practically unknown. The Ensemble Avantgarde and the soprano Julia Sophie Wagner set out on a journey of discovery to a composer who was far ahead of his times.
Almost the same age as Arnold Schönberg, Ives was artistically isolated. Four years of composition lessons with Horatio Parker at Yale clearly left much less of an impression than his boyhood years with his father George Edward, who was an enthousiastic experimentator. As army bandmaster the elder Ives once had several marching bands march into the marketplace of Danbury from various directions – each playing different marches, of course. This seemingly cacophonous alliance of otherwise unrelated parts would also repeatedly be found in the compositions of the younger Ives.
For example, in “Old Home Day,” in which a piccolo suddenly joins a somewhat classical song, evidently without having agreed on repertoire and the key. Ives did need to have any concerns – at least financial ones – about the acceptance of his music. With his own insurance company he became very rich. “Why do you write so much that no one ever gets to see? There are many good reasons, but none worth mentioning,” Ives says in the epilogue to his selfpublished song collection.
Many of Ives’s works are available in various versions and instrumentations. The dreamy “Remembrance” can be found in three versions on this CD which is both top-class and original. From very romantic (as in “Feldeinsamkeit”) to popular music (“Circus Band”): in Ives we find everything – and sometimes everything at one and the same time.