Wachner, Trinity forces rock Carnegie with massive rarities by Ives and Ginastera

02.22.15
Julian Wachner
New York Classical Review

By George Grella

Trinity Wall Street was calling the concert they produced at Carnegie Hall Saturday night “The Big Concert,” and big it was. It was also, in many ways, quite grand. And in a few ways it was also quite mad.

In the most obvious, logistical sense, the program was tremendously ambitious: Ives’ Symphony No. 4, with its chorus and multiple groups within the larger ensemble, followed by Turbae ad Passionem Gregorianam, by Alberto Ginastera, a symphonic Passion oratorio that calls for hundreds of singers.

All this was presented by Trinity’s Choir, Trinity Youth Chorus, the NOVUS NY orchestra, and the Washington Chorus and Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir, led with command and passionate energy by Trinity’s music director, Julian Wachner.

Wachner also lead the audience in some hymn singing because, as he explained from the stage, the hymns were the common fabric from which Ives composed (along with marches and popular music) and were a part of the regular musical life of his audience. So the audience sang the hymns to get acquainted with Ives’ world, sounding great, but helped by some chorus ringers in the boxes on each side of the hall.

That was one of several features that Wachner established for the Ives symphony that were true to the music and exceptionally effective. The “distant choir” of strings and harp were placed in an upper balcony, stage right, the offstage percussion was truly offstage, and, in a completely unexpected touch, the solo piano—played with beautiful naturalism by Timo Andres—was at the foot of the stage, in concerto configuration.

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Like a lot of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, it is good to hear Turbae and good to know one will never hear it again. But Ives’ Symphony No. 4  should be heard always, and preferably in performances as well-prepared and outstanding as this.

Read the full review here.