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There are many criteria for determining if a composer is great. One I like is do I enjoy the listening experience? In the case of Ives vs. Copland, the only piece by Ives that I listen go with any regularity is the Variations on America, composed when he was 16. I'd rather listen to Copland's early Clarinet Concerto than Ives' 4th Symphony. I get that the Ives is a great work, I've been told so many times, I just don't enjoy listening to it.
Ives had an agenda, be dissonant. I don't mind dissonance when it serves a dramatic purpose, but in Ives it's unrelenting and as such comes to be heard as noise. Ives was certainly original, but who cares if no one cares to listen?
Dave, you have an agenda. You appreciate Ives, good for you. You want to share your appreciation, wonderful. You made a nice video to make your case, awesome, but your case loses credibility when you insult those who disagree with you. Copland certainty deserves more respect that America's Got a Talent. To be honest I would rather listen to Phillip Glass than Charles Ives (and I don't enjoy minimalism).
Make your case and if people don't agree continue making hour case, but don't just tell us he was America's greatest composer, tell us why you think so.
Well, all you're saying is that you don't dig his music that much, that's fine. I think Ives is the greatest due to his groundbreaking conception of music as a whole. His use of dissonance wasn't an agenda in my opinion, but the clarion call of the true expression of life through sound, a major breakthrough in musical thought. He was SO far ahead of anyone and everyone in his daring, in his achievements, and in his concept, to me he's like a Da Vinci in the pantheon of greatness. After listening to Ives I can barely listen to Bach. I think Ives is the Keith Jarrett of American composers, there's nobody in his universe.
Ok, you're right I think, Copland is a helluva lot better than America's got talent, sorry. Copland is wonderful, I never listen to any of his music. If I were on a desert island I would take Ives 4th.
I like Ives, but prefer Copland. His Piano Variations certainly compete with Ive's somewhat moderate dissonance. Leonard Bernstein said of the Piano Variations that he adored the piece, which was "hard as nails," and also used it at parties to "empty the room, guaranteed, in two minutes."
Re: The Piano Music of Charles Ives
#2555674 07/10/1612:39 PM07/10/1612:39 PM
Ives, Copland... IMO none of them remotely approach Gershwin for sheer spontaneity and an innate and unbridled talent which reminds me of Mozart and Ravel. The guy was awesome, his piano playing might have matched Horowitz and Rachmaninov. His deeply felt songs take everyone to the cleaners, his opera 'Porgy and Bess' is crushingly relevant today, and his Concerto in F overflows with thematic material which would make any mortal jealous.
I knew this before I even emigrated to the US. Americans desperately want to claim a great composer for their own, but they aren't looking in the right place.
The mention of Sondheim earlier is not to be dismissed. There is another great one.
“ ...Sources of Ives' tonal imagery are hymn tunes and traditional songs, the town band at holiday parade, the fiddlers at Saturday night dances, patriotic songs, sentimental parlor ballads, and the melodies of Stephen Foster. ”
I think Ives is the greatest due to his groundbreaking conception of music as a whole. His use of dissonance wasn't an agenda in my opinion, but the clarion call of the true expression of life through sound, a major breakthrough in musical thought. He was SO far ahead of anyone and everyone in his daring, in his achievements, and in his concept, to me he's like a Da Vinci in the pantheon of greatness. After listening to Ives I can barely listen to Bach. I think Ives is the Keith Jarrett of American composers, there's nobody in his universe.
You are passionate, Dfrankjazz, but you do not persuade.
I can somewhat sympathize with Still, but I'd put Duke Ellington first -- particularly when Gramophone included Gershwin and Bernstein in their top 10. I'm still a Copland fan for "the greatest" -- I think he did more than anyone to identify an "American sound" in Classical music. And I'd definitely put both Barber and Ives in the top five, although this would be much to the chagrin of Barber -- he was on record as saying he couldn't stand Ives's music.
In spite of the dumb click-bait title, Gramophone at least has the good sense to go on to say it is really just a selection of ten of their favorite American composers, instead of putting them into some bogus rank as the top ten. There are any number of changes and substitutions that could be made to their selection, but why even bother? I don't need to think of Ives or any other as "the greatest", or in the "top 10" in order to love or admire their music.
I will say that, to me, Ives is among the best American composers. I know, that is a kind of ranking, but it avoids some arbitrary and meaningless limits, which I think makes all the difference.
His music has an enormous range of expression, from a rambunctious joy in sheer noisy sound on one end of the spectrum, to, on the other end, a particular kind of rapturous sublime beauty that is almost a signature of his. His music can be wonderful stuff. It did take me a while to get reasonably acclimatized to his idiom, but it has definitely been worth it.
But, on the other hand, not all of it was so difficult to understand and enjoy on first hearing. I can remember back to the 1960s when Bernstein did "The Unanswered Question" on one of his television shows, and I was instantly convinced. That piece was very strange to my unsophisticated teenage ears, but it still made complete sense and was extremely compelling and moving music.
Jeremy Denk's recording of the two big piano sonatas is, as record reviewers sometimes say, urgently recommended. It is the kind of intensely communicative playing by someone with a deep understanding of the music that can change how you hear it.
For the Fourth of July, the most appropriate piece of his might be the amazing collage-style movement with that title, from his Holidays Symphony. It celebrates the day with a wildly delirious evocation of multiple simultaneous marching bands, plus fireworks.