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Correspondence: To the Editors of ‘Music & Letters’
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To the Editors of ‘Music & Letters’
Thomas M. Brodhead, Principal Editor

The New Performance Edition of the Ives 4th Symphony

I’d like to thank Peter Dickinson for his thoughtful, informed, and complimentary review of the new Ives Society Critical Edition of the Ives 4th Symphony (Music & Letters, 94 (2013), 360–2). One thing Dickinson could not know was that the new, correlative Performance Score (a spiral-bound rental score) he reviewed was the initial, provisional version prepared at the time the 2011 hard-bound Critical Edition was published. The final version of the new Performance Score (finished only recently) has greatly expanded front matter (an increase from seventeen to forty-one pages), which includes a bounty of new essays filled with useful information for conductors, music librarians, and students of the score. For example, one new section provides the conductor with excerpts from the parts so that s/he can see the alternative notations with which the players are provided in their parts, and may therefore decide which conducting technique would best suit a given passage; it also shows the conductor what the players must interpret in some of the thornier, temporally asynchronous passages, thus allowing advice to be provided from the podium.

Dickinson’s perspicacious comment about the misattribution of the Trombone quotation at the end of the ‘Fugue’ movement—although correctly identified in my colour-coded quotation analysis on the CD-Rom in the Critical Edition as ‘Antioch’, aka ‘Joy to the World’—was corrected in the final version of the Performance Score along with myriad minutiae, all made possible by a special task I undertook over the past year. Between August 2012 and May 2013 there were nine separate programmings of the new Ives 4th; chronologically: the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (where the inaugural performance was given by Peter Eötvös on 26 August 2012), the Berlin Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the University of Kentucky Symphony (Lexington), the American Symphony Orchestra, the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, the Yale Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Detroit Symphony. Because there are 1,700 pages of parts in the new performance materials (and much of the page-count is encompassed by individual parts for each string desk, a solution eliminating the confusion string players faced when reading five-way part divisions, etc., in the previous all-in-one parts to the previous 1965 edition), I realized that no amount of proofreading or guesswork could ensure that the performance materials were fully seaworthy. So I travelled to attend six of the nine rehearsals and performances (Lucerne, Berlin, Amsterdam, Lexington, New York, and Detroit) and consulted players and conductors alike to collect feedback. That feedback allowed me to swat all of the unnoticed bugs in the materials at the time of the publication of the Critical Edition (such as the ‘Antioch’ snafu in the Foreword to the Performance Score) as well as to make clarifications where the presentation was not ideal, both in the full score and in the parts.

It should be understood that ‘clarification’ here is not the same as collecting and correcting errata. The Performance Score is graphically (i.e. notationally) different from the Critical Edition in many respects, most especially in its presentation of multi-metric passages and polytemporal passages, both of which are best negotiated (as Ives himself indicated) with a second conductor. Likewise, the parts themselves require clarity regarding rhythmic and temporal issues, as well as a host of other thorny challenges provided to the performer by Ives. Achieving the clearest presentation for conductors in the full score and for the players in the parts was therefore something that demanded real-world feedback from musicians, rather than educated but effectively a priori guesswork by the editor. Therefore, most valuable of all was the week-long live laboratory of the Lucerne Festival, where Peter Eötvös and six talented student conductors put the score and parts through its paces in the most [End Page 728] sympathetic and joyous venue possible. (The official video from the Lucerne Festival documenting the Ives 4th week can be viewed at http://vimeo.com/68209474.)

This may be the first time a performance edition of an Ives...