He’s been called a musical genius, an eccentric dreamer, the father of American music, a great Yankee maverick, fiercely democratic, and a difficult crank. More than a half-century after the death of American composer Charles Ives, musicians, listeners, and scholars continue to be stimulated and inspired by Ives’s contributions to the body of American classical music.
The University of Washington School of Music presents a multitude of opportunities for discussion and enjoyment of the works of this iconic music figure May 6-8, 2013 with A Festival of Ives, a three-day celebration of Ives’s music including performances of major works, lectures and informal talks, lecture-recitals, and a master class, all open to the public.
Organized by Ruth Sutton Waters Endowed Professor Larry Starr of the Music History faculty, A Festival of Ives will welcome distinguished guests including renowned scholar Joseph Horowitz, an authority and author of several books on the history of concert music in the United States and himself an organizer of previous Ives celebration events; baritone William Sharp, who is among the most distinguished interpreters of Ives’s remarkable song repertoire; Ives scholar Geoffrey Block, Distinguished Professor of Music History at the University of Puget Sound; and pianist Cristina Valdés, who will perform Ives’s extraordinary and virtuosic “Concord” Sonata for piano and other works in two evening concerts at Brechemin Auditorium.
“The year 2013 marks no special anniversary year for Charles Ives, (1874-1954),” says Professor Starr. “But Ives was an unconventional man anyway, and his importance is such that we need not, and should not, wait for a traditional “occasion” to celebrate his work; it is as central to American musical culture as the work of Beethoven (Ives’s favorite composer) is to European musical culture. That Ives is not better known and more frequently performed may be the consequence of lingering notions that he is a ‘difficult,’ ‘inaccessible,’ or ‘eccentric’ composer. It is one of the missions of this Ives Festival to help dispel such ideas.”
A Festival of Ives kicks off on Monday, May 6, with an afternoon keynote lecture, “Charles Ives and the Fate and Future of American Music,” by Joseph Horowitz, and an evening concert at Meany Theater by the University Symphony, conducted by Jonathan Pasternack, with guest vocalist William Sharp. The program includes orchestral arrangements of Ives songs (created by renowned American composer John Adams); Ives’s From the Steeples and the Mountains; and Calcium Light Night, the composer’s instrumental celebration of a ritual from his student days at Yale. A pre-concert talk by Music History Professor Larry Starr, “Charles Ives and the Idea(l) of American Musical Community,” leads off the evening.
The celebration continues Tuesday and Wednesday, May 7 and 8 with a number of events at the School of Music, including a recital at Brechemin Auditorium on May 7 by Seattle pianist Cristina Valdés presenting Ives’s Piano Sonata No. 2 (“Concord, Massachusetts, 1840-1860”), with accompanying dramatic readings from the New England authors whose work inspired the piece and from Ives’s essays about them. Valdés will be joined by UW faculty artists Melia Watras, viola, and Donna Shin, flute. The evening includes a pre-concert talk, “An Introduction to Ives’s ‘Concord’ Sonata,” by Ives scholar Geoffrey Block, and a post-concert discussion and question-and-answer session.
Valdés returns to the stage of Brechemin Auditorium on Wednesday, May 8 for a concert in two parts. In the first half of the program, "Charles Ives: A Life in Music," baritone William Sharp performs songs by Ives, with readings, accompanied by pianist Rhonda Kline. The second half of the program includes chamber works by Ives, including his Violin Sonata No. 4 (“Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting”), performed by Valdés and Seattle violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim, and Ives’s Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, performed by Valdés, Lim, and cellist David Requiro. The concert is preceded by a panel discussion by Geoffrey Block, Joseph Horowitz, and Larry Starr on the continuing importance of Ives’s music, “Charles Ives’s Bequests to American Music.”
In addition to the above highlighted events are a number of performances, a master class, and lecture-demonstrations. In all, the festival promises to stimulate, inform, and entertain while celebrating a most unusual and provocative force in American classical music.
The composer’s songs will provide an important focus for the festival. “Ives’s songs number close to 200, and he wrote songs for voice and piano throughout his career as a composer,” Professor Starr says. “Ives wrote in every imaginable style and genre of song, from 19th-century style parlor songs, lullabies, marches, and lieder modeled on the works of German masters, to songs that virtually redefine all traditional conceptions of style and genre. There is no composer of song whose work ranges more widely or more generously.”
A Festival of Ives is organized by Larry Starr, Ruth Sutton Waters Endowed Professor of Music, with additional support from the School of Music, and the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities, and the Charles Ives Society.
A Festival of Ives Schedule of Events
Monday, May 6
1:30 p.m. Public lecture by Joseph Horowitz: “Charles Ives and the Fate and Future of American Music” (Brechemin Auditorium)
6:45 p.m. Pre-concert talk by Larry Starr: “Charles Ives and the Idea(l) of American Musical Community” (Meany West Lobby) Cost: FREE with paid admission to 7:30 p.m. orchestra concert.
*7:30 p.m. UW Symphony concert with guest vocalist William Sharp, featuring orchestral arrangements (by John Adams) of Ives songs and Ives’s Calcium Light Night and From the Steeples and the Mountains. Jonathan Pasternack conducts.(Meany Theater)
Tuesday, May 7
3:30-4:15 p.m. Lecture/demonstration: “Charles Ives and the American Parlor Song,” by visiting artist William Sharp, accompanied by pianist Rhonda Kline (Brechemin Auditorium)
4:30 to 5:15 p.m. Voice master class led by William Sharp (Brechemin Auditorium)
6:45 p.m. Pre-concert talk by visiting scholar Geoffrey Block, University of Puget Sound: “An Introduction to Ives’s ‘Concord’ Sonata” (Brechemin Auditorium)
*7:30 p.m. Concert: “Concord” Sonata: A recital by pianist Cristina Valdés presenting Ives’s Piano Sonata No. 2 (“Concord, Massachusetts, 1840-1860”), with faculty artists Melia Watras, viola, and Donna Shin, flute. The performance is accompanied by dramatic readings from Ives’s essays and from authors who inspired Ives’s work (Brechemin Auditorium).
A brief discussion and question-and-answer session follows the performance.
*Tickets for recital by Cristina Valdés and guests: $15 cash or check at the door. Concert details are available here.
Wednesday, May 8
2:30 p.m. Vocal recital: Students Kristin Lindenmuth and Sarah Kolat perform songs by Charles Ives, accompanied by Larry Starr and Yiit Kolat (Brechemin Auditorium)
6:30 p.m. Panel discussion by Geoffrey Block, Joseph Horowitz, and Larry Starr: “Charles Ives’s Bequests to American Music” (Brechemin Auditorium)
*7:30 p.m. Concert: Songs and Chamber Music: A concert in two parts presenting songs by Ives, with commentary, and chamber works by Ives. The first half of the program, "Charles Ives: A Life in Music," features songs by Ives, performed by William Sharp, accompanied by Rhonda Kline, with readings. The second half of the program features chamber works by Ives, including Violin Sonata No. 4, performed by violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim, and Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, performed by Cristina Valdés, Michael Jinsoo Lim, and cellist David Requiro (Brechemin Auditorium)
*Tickets for recital by William Sharp, Cristina Valdés, and guests: $15 cash or check at the door. Concert details are available here.
All events are free except where noted.