I know a different Charles Ives, the early twentieth century musical iconoclast who so dauntlessly took American music "where no one had gone before". The Ives found here is a fine enough student composer from Yale who was apparently hamstrung by his conservatively predisposed professors. That said, his turn-of-the-century Symphony No. 1 as performed here is an enjoyable Late Romantic work in four movements that won't necessarily shake the wax out of one's ears, but still makes for a well-constructed, tuneful, and sometimes dramatic listen. The first movement commences with a soft, lilting waltz and develops in typical sonata form, finally building to a crescendo and ending dramatically. The elegiac second movement is especially redolent of Dvorák's "New World" with its beautiful and mournful main theme introduced on the cor anglais and echoed on the strings -- Järvi and the Detroiters milk the movement for as much languor as propriety allows. Elsewhere, the symphony mostly takes us along for an enjoyable, if not especially challenging jaunt through what was apparently the musical sensibilities of late 1890s American musical academia -- Ives' professors must've been proud. Unfortunately, the spacious acoustic and low-level recording lends itself more to background listening as opposed to divining orchestral detail, which would probably have made for a more involving performance -- turn up the volume!
The Three Essays for Orchestra of Samuel Barber are interesting, often moving shorter works thoroughly evocative of Middle America; they're not always heard together. Here, they're given a mostly similar soft-edged treatment as the Ives, yet performed with great commitment toward a pastoral view of Barber's conception. In No. 1 and No. 2, we become soaked up in wipe open landscapes and echoing themes; dramatic crescendos elevate us to a musically exultant stratosphere -- the percussion are especially impressive here! No. 3 takes on a different flavor, at least initially, as it's framed in a more modernist vein, but eventually becomes steeped in a tonal resplendency with percussive echoes. The orchestra paints a soft portrait filled with beautiful sweep and color, then eventually lets loose in a wonderfully dramatic accelerando that brings it all home. The vivid spaciousness of the recording serves this music very well!