Preview – Bernstein, Ives, and Rouse at New York Philharmonic (4/20)


  • Christopher Rouse, Prospero’s Rooms
  • Leonard Bernstein, Serenade
  • Charles Ives, Symphony No. 4

Venue: Avery Fisher Hall, Manhattan, NY

Performers: New York Philharmonic; Joshua Bell, violin soloist; Alan Gilbert, conductor

In his Memos, Ives writes that his program notes read “the last movement is an apotheosis of the preceding content, in terms that have something to do with the reality of existence and its religious experience” (Ives 1972, 66). He then mentions that hymn melodies are quoted, which reminds me of the way Bach used chorale melodies in his cantatas. When listening to a recording of this movement, it sounds like a very dissonant jumble of sounds, and I wonder why Ives says that it is an apotheosis. Does is in some way bring back earlier themes? Or does he mean that in a metaphorical sense?

Ives also mentions that the performing groups shouldn’t all be on the same stage in the second or fourth movements (Ives 1972, 67). I’m curious how this will work at the performance, whether the NY Phil will have ensembles in different parts of the hall, and how it will sound. Obviously you can’t capture the same sense of space on a recording, so it should sound quite different.

There is also something very unusual about this piece: there’s a chorus singing in the first and last movements, which isn’t normal for a symphony since they are usually instrumental works. Additionally, the first movement is very short, and isn’t in sonata form. The third movement is slow, but the second and last movements are atypical too.

Ives wrote this piece towards the end of his career as a composer, and it was his last symphony, so I think that it probably represents his mature style very well. He also says that he felt the most comfortable writing religious music in the fourth symphony (Ives 1972, 129), which is remarkable because he wrote a lot of church music, but a symphony is usually secular.

Sources: Ives, Charles E. Memos. Edited by John Kirkpatrick. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972. 


The above is a sample of the type of work I would expect from you regarding the biographical part of the preview.

You are REQUIRED to use a print book from the Baruch library. In this case, I would consult a biography on Bernstein, on Ives, or on 20th century music (Rouse is a modern-day, living composer, and likely does not have any books written about him…yet). Your preview should address the following points (in paragraph form):
-Consider the composer’s biography and the piece’s history. Do you think any of this
information will impact how you’ll hear/experience the piece when you hear it live? If
yes, how so? If no, why not?
-Is there anything special or unusual about the piece? Think of this in regards to the
genre, the time period, the composer, the style.

It is not crucial that you write about all the pieces in depth, but you SHOULD make mention of all the pieces. Perhaps consider how they relate to one another…


Formatting details:

  • Make sure you choose “Concert Preview” from “Categories”
  • Add tags to your post, including the genre(s), composers, etc.
  • Name your post as I have: “Preview – [Composers] at [Venue/Group] (Date).” IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE THE DATE