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Re: [charlesives] Re: Ives' Second Orchestral Set, with accordion

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  • Daniel Plante
    If I remember correctly, the original post that asked about the use of the accordion in the Second Orchestral Set, referred to the original accordion. I
    Message 1 of 9 , Feb 8, 2005
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      If I remember correctly, the original post that asked about the use of the accordion in the Second Orchestral Set, referred to "the original accordion." I passed that one by at the time, but I was wondering what source there is for an accordion in the first movement. I'm not sure there is one, but a Stokowskian invention. I don't think Ives ever used the accordion elsewhere, did he???

      In the score, it's apparent that Ives himself wasn't clear about what he wanted there. The part is marked "Zither (or violins) (or harpsichord)." It' seems that while he knew how the part sounded in his head, he had NO idea how to bring it off, since none of those instruments he suggested could play the part as notated.

      By violins, he must have meant strings since you would need a small chamber group including viola and cello. As for the zither, it's completely unplayable - the range is extremely wide and seems to go beyond any zither I've ever heard. And in any case, the polyphonic and polymetrical texture is impossible for two hands using zither doo-dads (are they called mallots or something?).

      As for the accordion, it's equally impossible to be played as written due to the nature of the instrument, and also because the upper part is unplayable by a single human hand. I'd gather that you'd need two regular accordions to play the upper part and a bass accordion to play the bottom stave. Somehow I can't imagine an accordion band adding much to such a delicate piece.

      For the same reason, it is not playable by one person on a harpsichord either, although I suppose it couple be managed four-hand. Still, you need to be amplified. This leads me to understand why Michael Tilson Thomas chose an electronic keyboard. It's ugliness and inappropriateness also leads me to understand why it was placed so far in the distance it is barely audible.

      I haven't compared the score against any of the recordings but if I remember exactly, Gould's harpsichord plays the upper part complete. I don't remember hearing the lower stave in that one. As for Stokowski, I can't remember, but unless it was accordion four-hands, they didn't play the upper part as written. Clearly, though, everyone has adapted the part and most likely left out something somewhere along the line if they followed Ives' suggestions instrumental suggestions.

      My own suggestion would be offstage strings where acoustics, dynamics, and the appropriate effect of distance can be controlled. This is what I wish they would do with the harp and string quintet in the first movement of the Fourth Symphony, although I've never seen it done. (The Stokowski recording reporduces that effect beautifully.) Usually these players are place on the balcony to serenade the first tier ticket buyers, I suppose, but the only effect is one of distraction - with everyone looking up there as soon as they play. This is the concert version of rubbernecking on the Long Island Expressway while passing an accident. Nice idea that doesn't work.

      Have the Ives folks gotten around to creating a critical edition of this? Mine dates back to 1971 and seems to be merely a transcription of the manuscript, which in this case doesn't begin to be adequate enough. No editorial work at all. OK as far as it goes, but it leaves the work to be finished by the conductor, orchestral librarian, and staff.


      Just a thought

      Dan Plante



      tony cole <tony@...> wrote:
      Perhaps I wasn't clear - the LP Stokowski has L'Ascension, whereas the CD issue has The G.C. - Tony
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: George
      To: charlesives@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Tuesday, February 08, 2005 6:56 PM
      Subject: [charlesives] Re: Ives' Second Orchestral Set, with accordion



      --- In charlesives@yahoogroups.com, "tony cole" <tony@c...>
      wrote:
      > Yes, the Stokowski Orch.Set 2 is on CD - coupled with - of all
      things the Grand Canyon Suite in Stanley Black's recording - ... I
      have the original LP and treasure it, but agree with Daniel in
      liking Morton Gould's version very much too. Tony
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: Daniel Plante
      > To: charlesives@yahoogroups.com
      > Sent: Monday, January 24, 2005 10:33 PM
      > Subject: Re: [charlesives] Looking for Ives' Second Orchestral
      Set, with accordion
      >

      > The only one I know that uses an accordian is the version by
      Leopold Stokowski on London Phase-Four from the early 70s.
      I'm not sure if it's been transferred to CD.

      >
      > Of all of those, the one I like best is the Chicago Symphony
      Morton Gould recording. It's the earliest, but the engineering and
      performance are really excellent I think.
      >

      > Bruce Triggs
      > North Vancouver, BC Canada
      >
      >
      >

      Count me among those who cherish Morton Gould's
      performance of "Orchestral Set #2" -- Stokowski is nice, too --
      Tony, you mention that your Stokowski LP has "Grand Canyon
      Suite" -- I guess the UK and US versions of that London Phase 4
      LP had different flip sides -- mine has Messiaen's "L'Ascension"
      -- I guess they figured that the US market was already glutted
      with too many versions of "Grand Canyon Suite."
      >
      >
      > George




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    • babybloc
      Thanks for your details on the accordion and Ives. I m not competent to know the history or technical possibilities of playing Ives on accordion. I got the
      Message 2 of 9 , Feb 10, 2005
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        Thanks for your details on the accordion and Ives. I'm not competent to know the history
        or technical possibilities of playing Ives on accordion. I got the idea that the
        Orchestral set No.2 originally included it from this article by Henry Doktorski:

        http://www.henrydoktorski.com/misc/hindemith.html

        "Hindemith's Kammermusik No. 1 was one of the very first orchestral pieces written by a
        classical composer to include accordion. Only Tchaikovsky's Orchestral Suite No. 2 (1883),
        Umberto Giordano's opera Fedora (1898) and Charles Ives Orchestral Set No. 2 (1915)
        predate it.

        "Nonetheless, it is significant to note that Hindemith's Kammermusik No. 1 was indeed
        the first piece written by a classical composer for the "chromatic accordion" -- an
        instrument which can play chromatic tones, i.e., tones in all twelve keys. (The piano
        accordion is also technically categorized as a "chromatic" instrument.) Tchaikovsky,
        Giordano and Ives wrote for "diatonic" button instruments which could only play in one
        key."

        A high-end modern "free-base" chromatic button accordion can play notes two octaves
        apart on each hand, and it can have a range of 11 octaves (or so I've read.) I don't know
        how playable that would make Ives' scores. Ives didn't have these modern instruments to
        write for, and it sounds like he exceeded the limits of a lot of the instruments he did have
        to
        work with. I'd love to hear them on modern instruments.

        I know that avant-garde composer guitarist Bill Frisell recorded a version of Ives' "The
        'Saint-Gaudens' in Boston Common," with a jazzy band on his eclectic album Have a Little
        Faith. Guy Klucevsek plays accordion on that one, but I doubt it's a very traditional
        arrangement. Anybody familiar with it? Probably the first time Ives has appeared on the
        same recording as a Madonna song. Nice.

        peace b
      • Daniel Plante
        Thanks for the response. Really curious - especially since he mentions that Ives wrote for the diatonic button instrument that could play only in one key.
        Message 3 of 9 , Feb 10, 2005
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          Thanks for the response. Really curious - especially since he mentions that Ives wrote for the "diatonic button instrument that could play only in one key." I can't imagine what he's referring to since of all the things you could say about the part, you can't say it's in one key - or ANY key, for that matter. It's all chromatic. The accordion I had in mind when I made my remarks was the piano accordion, the one that has the piano keyboard for the RH and bass and chord buttons for the left. I wonder where he got his information.

          The info on the Hindemith was just as interesting though. I'm no accordian expert but I had no idea that the part was written for a particular kind of instrument. I wonder where they find these things to play them today. The same store that one goes to buy a siren for Varese, maybe??

          If anyone doesn't know the Kammermusik set of Hindemith, it's really worth exploring. The piano concerto alone is worth the price of admission.

          Dan Plante



          babybloc <babybloc@...> wrote:

          Thanks for your details on the accordion and Ives. I'm not competent to know the history
          or technical possibilities of playing Ives on accordion. I got the idea that the
          Orchestral set No.2 originally included it from this article by Henry Doktorski:

          http://www.henrydoktorski.com/misc/hindemith.html

          "Hindemith's Kammermusik No. 1 was one of the very first orchestral pieces written by a
          classical composer to include accordion. Only Tchaikovsky's Orchestral Suite No. 2 (1883),
          Umberto Giordano's opera Fedora (1898) and Charles Ives Orchestral Set No. 2 (1915)
          predate it.

          "Nonetheless, it is significant to note that Hindemith's Kammermusik No. 1 was indeed
          the first piece written by a classical composer for the "chromatic accordion" -- an
          instrument which can play chromatic tones, i.e., tones in all twelve keys. (The piano
          accordion is also technically categorized as a "chromatic" instrument.) Tchaikovsky,
          Giordano and Ives wrote for "diatonic" button instruments which could only play in one
          key."

          A high-end modern "free-base" chromatic button accordion can play notes two octaves
          apart on each hand, and it can have a range of 11 octaves (or so I've read.) I don't know
          how playable that would make Ives' scores. Ives didn't have these modern instruments to
          write for, and it sounds like he exceeded the limits of a lot of the instruments he did have
          to
          work with. I'd love to hear them on modern instruments.

          I know that avant-garde composer guitarist Bill Frisell recorded a version of Ives' "The
          'Saint-Gaudens' in Boston Common," with a jazzy band on his eclectic album Have a Little
          Faith. Guy Klucevsek plays accordion on that one, but I doubt it's a very traditional
          arrangement. Anybody familiar with it? Probably the first time Ives has appeared on the
          same recording as a Madonna song. Nice.

          peace b




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        • davidgrayporter
          ... of this? Mine dates back to 1971 and seems to be merely a transcription of the manuscript, which in this case doesn t begin to be adequate enough. No
          Message 4 of 9 , Mar 23, 2005
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            --- In charlesives@yahoogroups.com, Daniel Plante <dplante2002@y...>
            wrote:
            > Have the Ives folks gotten around to creating a critical edition
            of this? Mine dates back to 1971 and seems to be merely a
            transcription of the manuscript, which in this case doesn't begin to
            be adequate enough. No editorial work at all. OK as far as it
            goes, but it leaves the work to be finished by the conductor,
            orchestral librarian, and staff.

            Thomas Brodhead's engraving of the critical edition of the Set is
            completed, so it's up to Peer to fix a release date. (I've seen
            some of this complete score -- it's beautiful!) -- DGP
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