The Charles Ives Society, for 47 years the leading authority on and proponent of the music of American composer Charles Ives (1874-1954), has partnered with Peermusic Classical to issue two separate new editions of Ives compositions. First are Twelve Easy Songs (high voice) and Twelve Easy Songs (low voice) - the identical 12 songs, in different transpositions - edited by Ives scholars Neely Bruce and James B. Sinclair, issued in June 2020.


Mr. Sinclair also partnered with pianist Donald Berman , president and treasurer of the Charles Ives Society, in Shorter Works for Piano vol. 2: Piano Studies, to be issued this Fall. Todd Vunderink, Vice President of Peermusic and Director of Peermusic Classical, says "We are fortunate to have some of Charles Ives's greatest music as part of our catalog, and we are thrilled that, after years of meticulous curation, we can issue this music in definitive editions by these esteemed musicians and Ives scholars."


Donald Berman, who has also edited Volumes 1 and 3 of Ives's Shorter Works for Piano, says "These editions represent 33 years of research, consultation and study. Over a lifetime of involvement with Ives's music, I've discovered that it is in many of his shorter works for piano that one encounters his more purely abstract ideas. Study No. 5, for instance, is completely rigorous, bereft of quotation, theoretically complex, and fiendishly difficult. Working on that piece, and the 40 other shorter works by Ives in the 3 piano volumes, deepened my sense of the comprehensiveness of his craft. There are also Studies that explore episodic facets of the Concord Sonata. These works helped reshape my familiarity with this monumental piece, leading me to its door, so to speak. The shorter piano pieces should absolutely be in the hands of every pianist who loves Ives's work, every conservatory piano teacher, and all their students. None of the pieces is longer than 5 minutes in length, but they are very demanding and definitely not for the faint of heart." 


Charles Ives is unique among composers for having achieved a remarkable level of financial independence. His day job as founder of a wildly successful insurance company allowed him - thankfully for us - to pursue whatever compositional path he wished. He was prolific but apparently not the most fastidious in cataloging his own works, so his estate yielded hundreds of scores in various stages of completion. These scores represent both a treasure trove and a minefield for present-day scholars, who have dedicated themselves to bringing as much of Ives's music to light as possible. The critical edition of the performance score for his Symphony No. 4 for example, was completed by 1925, but has only recently been published. Fifteen years after Ives's death in 1954, an Ives Society was loosely organized by a handful of devoted champions of his music, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland among them, but the formal organization that thrives today was formed in 1973. The organization's original chairman was the great Ives interpreter John Kirkpatrick, with eminent musicologist H. Wiley Hitchcock as its ultimate driving force.


Neely Bruce, a composer and John Spencer Camp Professor of Music and American Studies at Wesleyan University, has devoted 60 years to the study and performance of the songs of Charles Ives. 36 of those years have been spent in collaboration with conductor and lifelong Ives scholar James B. Sinclair, Executive Editor for the Ives Society and fellow at Yale University's Berkeley College, creating performing editions. Their edition of Ives's complete songs will be issued by 2024, the 150th anniversary of Ives's birth and the year many of the copyrights for his compositions go into the public domain. For this monumental undertaking, Mr. Sinclair makes a facsimile edition for each song, taking into consideration the many versions of a single song which may exist, then Mr. Bruce sets out a performing edition based on Mr. Sinclair's work. Mr. Bruce is the only pianist to have presented and played all of Ives's 184 songs, in collaboration with many singers over the years. He produced an epic series of concerts, lectures and panel discussions of and about the songs at Wesleyan University over the 5-year period from 2004 - 2009, aptly named The Ives Vocal Marathon.


Hearing Leonard Bernstein conduct Ives's "The 4th of July" from the Holidays Symphony on television was an experience which set the young James B. Sinclair on the path to a lifetime of intense study, discovery and revelatory insights into the music of Charles Ives. Now, decades later, he is universally acknowledged as one of only a handful of leading authorities on Ives. "It was the spiritual aspect of Ives's music which most attracted me, and from the very outset," says Mr. Sinclair, "and after years of immersion in this music it's clear that for Ives, it is the musical substance that is of chief importance, not the 'manner', so to speak. Ives felt that in a sense his music was alive and that he could only keep it alive by revising it, so there are multiple versions of many of his compositions. But the real message is the substance -Three Places in New England has 4 versions, for example, but the essential substance in all of them is the same." Mr. Sinclair describes this new Piano Studies edition as a "great revelation" and of enormous value to serious Ives devotees. About the Twelve Easy Songs volumes, he says "We looked for songs that are easy and fun to sing. In some of the cases the piano parts are considerably more challenging than the vocal lines. None of the songs employs atonal musical language, and we made sure to include a range of character, from sweet ballads to high energy pieces resembling a street march - so these songs are perfect for recitals."


Donald Berman has been on the frontlines of new music scholarship, performance and recording for over 30 years. A pianist and scholar of exceptional gifts, he currently serves on the faculties of both Tufts University and the Longy School of Music of Bard College. He is President and Treasurer of the Charles Ives Society, and has been a Fellow at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. From 1998-2008 Mr. Berman curated an immense project which ultimately resulted in a highly praised series of four concerts of unknown and under-appreciated American music at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and a subsequent 4-CD set, Americans in Rome (BRIDGE 9271). Mr. Berman has recorded all of Charles Ives's previously unpublished piano music, on two CDs: The Unknown Ives (CRI CD811), and The Unknown Ives vol. 2 (New World Records 80618). Mr. Berman's CD of piano works by Martin Boykan (BRIDGE 9434), was enthusiastically received by the New York Times and the Boston Globe, and his recording of piano miniatures, Scott Wheeler: Portraits & Tributes (BRIDGE 9463), served as the basis for his performance of the New York premiere of these pieces at National Sawdust, which was ultimately broadcast on American Public Media's Performance Today. He is featured on a recording of songs by György Kurtág with soprano Susan Narucki, The Edge of Silence (AVIE AV2408), which was nominated for a Grammy in 2019. Another recent project is a recording of George Perle's Serenade for Piano & Orchestra with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, released on BMOP Sound (1067) and also nominated for a Grammy in the same year. Other recordings can be found on Accurate, ARSIS Audio, Bridge, CRI, Capstone Records, Centaur, Koch, Naxos, New World Records, Newport Classics and Summit.

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