Ives: Symphony No 3 (The Camp Meeting); Symphony No 4; Orchestral Set No 2

Reviewed on Fri 19 May, 2017

All the details of Ives’s complex scores come through, with a finely judged balance that accommodates the diverse forces: soloists, percussion and choir.

Sir Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony complete their cycle of Ives orchestral works in excellent form. The playing is committed, and the SACD audio is clear and engaging. All the details of Ives’s complex scores come through, with a finely judged balance that accommodates the diverse forces: soloists, percussion and choir. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet gives an impressive rendition of the piano part to the Fourth Symphony, although it is too brief to justify his top billing on the cover. This cycle has proved controversial, however, with many complaining that Davis smoothes over the edges to create an excessively unified sound. True, these are particularly symphonic readings, and the focus on the string sound pushes the military bands out of the spotlight. But, to my ear, the detail afforded by the audio quality more than compensates. Those who disagree should stick with Bernstein for No 3 and Tilson Thomas for No 4.
–Gavin Dixon