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Ives Fourth Symphony


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Thomas M. Brodhead

This new performance score seeks to address every quantifiable performance problem confronting conductors and performers of the Ives Fourth Symphony. Here, for the first time, difficulties that have bedeviled interpreters of the score in the past are addressed, and the new issues unearthed in the recently published Critical Edition score are harnessed and accounted for.

The previous performance score was provisional from its inception: Its editors—Theodore Seder, Romulus Franceschini, and Nicholas Falcone—worked against a daunting deadline to provide performance materials to enable the American Symphony Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski to give the work its long-delayed world premiere on 26 April 1965. The resulting score was a patchwork of hand copying and Cowell-era plate engraving (for bits of the 2nd movement), and the parts—in use up to now—contained no cues for the players. Seder, Franceschini, and Falcone must still be given credit for an admirable job of decoding the manuscript sources at a time when so much in them was poorly understood.

The prime directive guiding this new Performance Edition—based on the scholarly Critical Edition—has been to realize Ives’s intentions without compromise. Whenever possible, the graphics of the score illustrate the composer’s intentions (e.g., the horizontal spacing of non-synchronous events visually suggests the effect that is to be achieved). The parts likewise clarify all polytemporal events through the use of coordination cues and alternative notations that preserve Ives’s rhythms. Most importantly, this edition does not force the work into the Procrustean bed of one particular viewpoint on how it should be conducted and performed. Rather, through the clarification of Ives’s intentions and through the transparent presentation of Ives’s performance options for conductors and players, this edition will allow conductors to make informed individual interpretations that may be executed in any number of ways.

This edition begins with fourteen written and illustrated documents that clarify Ives’s intentions:

Survival Guide: A comprehensive listing of all issues that must be apprehended by the conductor before the first rehearsal.

Part Pages That May Require Explanation: A descriptive and illustrated catalogue of part pages that may elicit questions from the players. This listing allows the conductor to see the parts without leaving the podium in order to answer any questions the players may have.

Alternative Notations in the Parts: A compendium of the alternative notations of difficult rhythms in the music. In some cases, the alternative rhythms may be sufficient for the players, but in other cases, Ives’s original rhythms are actually easier to follow. Since the alternative notations are referenced but not reproduced in the full score, seeing the alternative notations is essential for the conductor to decide how to rehearse and conduct the passages in question (either in isolation or with an assistant conductor).

“Consult Conductor” Questions in the Parts: A listing of every orchestration option that Ives leaves to the conductor and that appears in the parts, each marked “Consult Conductor.” It serves as a checklist for the conductor to give to the orchestra librarian so the parts may be marked appropriately.

The Program of Movement II: The Celestial Railroad: This outlines the lively program behind the Comedy movement, which is a tone poem of Straussian dimensions. Players who learn the extra-musical meaning of the movement will undoubtedly respond even more enthusiastically to the music.

Bellamann’s Program Note to the 1927 Premiere of the Prelude and Comedy Movements: This essay was most likely ghost-written by Ives himself, and it offers valuable insights into the score.

Ives’s Conductor’s Note to Movement II: This note by Ives glosses all of the asterisks in the second movement, something the original publication regrettably failed to do.

The Meaning of Ives’s Conductor’s Note Essay: This clarification of the essay concluding Ives’s Conductor’s Note reveals the function of the “prominence indicators” in the Comedy movement.

OU Coordination with BU in Finale, mm. 65–70: The realization of a short passage for a subset of winds in the Finale marked by Ives for special coordination with the BU is illustrated and discussed.

Interpretive and Rehearsal Agogics: Passages that may benefit from special interpretive and rehearsal consideration are proffered for consideration.

Where Additional Conductors Might Be Employed: A presentation and discussion of the principal and secondary passages where additional conductor(s) may be employed is provided.

Checklist For Orchestra Librarians: A listing of the more important organizational details required for rehearsal and performance preparation.

Instrumentation Requirements for Rehearsals: A graphical listing of which instruments are needed for which movement is delineated.


The present work would not have been possible without the help of James B. Sinclair for his proofreading and extensive knowledge of Ives, and for Gunther Schuller, who acted as editorial consultant. Valuable insights from Stephen Hartke also inform the edition, and expressions of riconoscenza go to Allen Edwards, whose careful proofreading of the fourth movement cleared the way for its apotheosis, as Ives intended all along.

But I owe my greatest thanks to the many orchestras who allowed me to attend rehearsals of this edition to collect real-world feedback from the performing musicians and thereafter fine-tune it. Because of you and your assistance, it is truly seaworthy. To you I dedicate this edition.

With real-world feedback from:
Lucerne Festival Orchestra, August 2012
Berlin Philharmonic, September 2012
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, September 2012
University of Kentucky Symphony, October 2012
New York Philharmonic, April 2013
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, May 2013
Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, November 2013
Seattle Symphony, January 2015
BBC Symphony, September 2015
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, November 2015
Utah Symphony, February 2017
San Francisco Symphony, November 2017