Charles Ives composed nearly 200 songs throughout his life. Wiley Hitchcock, in the thorough introduction to his 2004 critical edition 129 Songs, described the Ives song canon as "the contents of a kind of scrapbook or commonplace book or chapbook, or even a desk drawer. Into such a receptacle Ives tossed irregularly, if not casually, his reactions - in the form of songs
- to memories, personalities, places, events, discoveries, ideas, visions, and fantasies in his life." Whether popular tale or personal reflection, this concept of the songs as memorabilia is realized in a most powerful way: the songs emotionally and viscerally evoke memory. Captured memories real or idealized, distant or near are the materials for the music. From cosmopolitan incident (Ann Street
) to pastoral stroll (The Housatonic at Stockbridge
) Ives's songs describe a range of experience: a child's playtime, a commuter's observations, a courter's hope. His songs exhibit reverence for the populace and pop culture, daring adventure, and family devotion; life and death. This new recording of 27 songs features soprano Susan Narucki, renowned for her authoritative interpretations of contemporary American music, and Donald Berman, whose recordings of Ives's piano music have been critically acclaimed.
The painterly details of Ives's songs are vividly conveyed by the bright-voiced Susan Narucki and the pianist Donald Berman on a new disc whose 27 diverse selections (most from H. Wiley Hitchcock s 2004 critical edition) highlight Ives's multiple influences. Those included European Romanticism and religious and secular American tunes, which he meshed with his own inventive, radical harmonies. Like Bartok, Ives used both simple folk melodies and dissonance, sometimes blending them. Gentle, melodic songs are interspersed here with more tumultuous works, demonstrating the wide spectrum of Ives's emotional and musical palette. The spare and evocative "Where the Eagle Cannot See" is followed by the theatrical, astringent intensity of "General William Booth Enters Into Heaven." The heavy weariness of "Like a Sick Eagle" is aptly conveyed by Ms. Narucki and Mr. Berman, before they plunge into the violent waters of "Swimmers," whose wildly turbulent piano part underpins a soaring vocal line. -Vivien Schweitzer --The New York Times