My husband Michael put a great video of Charles Ives' Variations on America on his blog today, so I thought I'd put something kind of unusual to add to the musical celebration of the Fourth of July: Michael Tippett conducting a youth orchestra of decidedly non-American musicians playing Putnam's Camp from Ives' Three Places in New England.
I think that any American orchestra today, even a good youth orchestra, would play this piece more appropriately, and I imagine that a British orchestra would certainly play this piece with far more understanding today than they would have in 1969, when this film was made. This reading (I know it's just a rehearsal) misses the mark, in my American opinion. The American "classical" musical tradition is very young when compared with European traditions, and it was much younger 38 years ago. What is interesting to me about watching this clip is that Tippett just doesn't seem to get the sense of the work as a piece of American music about American nostalgia. We have come a long way in 38 years by taking baby steps on the road towards interpreting American music.
Tags: Charles Ives, Michael Tippett, American Music, Putnam's Camp