American Classics - Ives: Symphony No 3, Etc / Sinclair
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James Sinclair is the world's foremost authority on the music of Charles Ives, but that doesn't guarantee success as an interpreter of the music. Fortunately, his musicianship evidently partakes of the same sympathy and thorough preparation as does his scholarship. These performances go straight to the top of the heap, imbuing Ives' quirky inspirations with a sense of inevitability and "rightness" rarely achieved in this repertoire. Interestingly, Sinclair doesn't manage this by minimizing the music's weirdness. Indeed, in the Third Symphony attentive listeners will notice the selective inclusion of some of those controversial dissonant "shadow lines" that add a touch of harmonic spice to the work's largely plain-spun hymn tunes.
The secret to Sinclair's success here lies largely in the remarkable transparency of texture he achieves, combined with propulsive tempos. The first movement of the Third Symphony, for example, flows with swift purposefulness before relaxing beautifully into the concluding flute solo. The Unanswered Question, at four and a half minutes, remains one of the swiftest ever. Some performances of this tiny masterpiece last more than six minutes, but Sinclair justifies his decision in the true "call and response" interaction between questioning trumpet and answering winds that this performance delineates with such persuasive clarity. He also brings a delicious rhythmic lift to the "barn dance" episode in Washington's Birthday.
Both the "Country Band" March and the Overture and March "1776" will be familiar from their appearance in the central movement of Three Places in New England, and in Sinclair's hands both pieces (particularly the former) display all of their humorous high spirits. Throughout the program, the Northern Sinfonia plays with impressive security and discipline, and Naxos' sonics capture the entire program with ideal balances and striking impact. In short, every aspect of this project has been realized about as well as it can be, and no admirer of Ives will want to miss out on the chance to hear it.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: 8559087
Composer: Charles Ives
Conductor: James Sinclair
Orchestra/Ensemble: Northern Sinfonia