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Work of the Week – Charles Ives: Central Park in the Dark

The David Geffen Hall, home to the New York Philharmonic, lies within walking distance of Manhattan’s iconic Central Park. Fittingly, on 21 March 2019 the orchestra with conductor Jaap van Zweden will perform Charles Ive’s Central Park in the Dark.

Composed in 1906 and originally titled A Contemplation of Nothing Serious or Central Park in the Dark in “The Good Old Summer Time”, the piece forms part of Ives’ Three Outdoor Scenes, alongside the complimentary orchestral piece The Pond and the lively quintet for piano and string quartet, Hallowe’en. The first performance of Central Park in the Dark did not happen until 1946, 40 years after its original composition.

Charles Ives: Central Park in the Dark – Nighttime portrayal of the famous park

Central Park in the Dark combines the characters of the two other pieces of Three Outdoor Scenes. A series of quiet atonal chords in the strings creates a curious nocturnal atmosphere that is both nostalgic and melancholy. Short flashes of melody evoke the sounds of the surrounding city cutting through the silence of the park. Over the course of the piece, the musical events become denser; motifs begin to overlap before abruptly settling back into the near silence of soft string chords.

“The strings represent the night sounds and silent darkness – interrupted by sounds from the Casino over the pond – of street singers coming up from the Circle singing, in spots, the tunes of those days – of some “night owls” from Healy´s – the “occasional elevated”, or a “break-down” in the distance – of newsboys crying “uxtries” – of pianolas having a ragtime war in the apartment house “over the garden wall” – a fire engine, a cab horse runs away, lands “over the fence and out” – again the darkness is heard – an echo over the pond – and we walk home.”
Charles Ives

Central Park in the Dark will receive three performances by the New York Philharmonic on 21, 23, and 26 March 2019 alongside works by Johannes Brahms and John Adams.



Photo: greips at Pixabay