Mahler Chamber Orchestra
It is over a century since Charles Edward Ives, from rural Connecticut, founded an insurance company in his adoptive New York, which he directed for 23 years and led quickly to the top of the industry. Ives pursued a clear social philosophy: life insurance was not a means of maximizing profit, but of uniting individual protection and mutual support. He viewed insurance as central to the American dream, a model for a community of free will, a social system of personal initiative. Ives was not only a successful business entrepreneur; he was also an eminently visionary composer who became the Grand Old Man – even the forefather – of American musical modernity.
As a composer, he was highly conscious of the historical influences of his home country, which he portrayed in his music. His father had fought for democracy in the Civil War. And so, for Charles Ives, from childhood on, music of all imaginable kinds belonged together with the landscape, freedom fighting, and public festivals held to mark politically important dates. At university, he honed his compositional skills. He composed aural portraits of landscapes and their inhabitants, in which popular melodies, often two or three at a time from seemingly different directions, blend with what Ives heard in nature. Listening to Charles Ives is a way of viewing America from its best side, in all its geographical, human and cultural expansiveness.
Dedicated to the music of America, Musikfest Berlin 2012 begins with a major Charles Ives portrait, performed by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Kent Nagano with soloists Thomas Hampson and Chen Reiss.
The programme presents the founding father of American music from three perspectives: the bold visionary of Orchestral Set No. 2; the traditional symphonicist of Symphony No. 2; and finally, the largely unknown song-composer, whose 114 songs form a compendium of American vocal repertoire to rival Franz Schubert, Hugo Wolff and Hanns Eisler’s treasury of songs. The opening concert of Musikfest Berlin presents a selection of twelve of the 114 songs which were originally composed for voice and piano, re-orchestrated here for voice and orchestra by American composer John Adams, European composer Georg Friedrich Haas and Asian composer Toshio Hosokawa – a compositional homage to the great master, and the upbeat to further Charles Ives’ concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic, Ingo Metzmacher and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the London Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas.
Chen Reiss soprano
Thomas Hampson baritone
Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Kent Nagano conductor