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Ives, Charles (1874–1954)


The American composer Charles Ives learned a great deal from his bandmaster father, not least a love of the music of Bach. At the same time he was exposed to a variety of very American musical influences, later reflected in his own idiosyncratic compositions. Ives was educated at Yale and made a career in insurance, reserving his activities as a composer for his leisure hours. Ironically, by the time that his music had begun to arouse interest, his own inspiration and energy as a composer had waned, so that for the last thirty years of his life he wrote little, while his reputation grew.

Orchestral Music

The symphonies of Ives include music essentially American in inspiration and adventurous in structure and texture, collages of Americana, expressed in a musical idiom that makes use of complex polytonality (the use of more than one key or tonality at the same time) and rhythm. The Third Symphony, for small orchestra, reflects much of Ives’s own background, carrying the explanatory title ‘The Camp Meeting’ and movement titles ‘Old Folks Gatherin’’, ‘Children’s Day’ and ‘Communion’. The Fourth Symphony includes a number of hymns and gospel songs, and his so-called First Orchestral Set, otherwise known as ‘A New England Symphony’, depicts three places in New England.

Chamber Music

The first of the two string quartets of Ives has the characteristic title ‘From the Salvation Army’ and is based on earlier organ compositions, while the fourth of his four violin sonatas is titled ‘Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting’.

Keyboard Music

Much of the earlier organ music written by Ives during his student years, when he served as organist in a number of churches, found its way into later compositions. The second of his two piano sonatas, ‘Concord, Mass. 1840–60’, has the characteristic movement titles ‘Emerson’, ‘Hawthorne’, ‘The Alcotts’ and ‘Thoreau’, a very American literary celebration.

Vocal and Choral Music

Ives wrote a number of psalm settings, part-songs and verse settings for unison voices and orchestra. In his many solo songs he set verses ranging from Shakespeare, Goethe and Heine to Whitman and Kipling, with a number of texts of his own creation. Relatively well-known songs by Ives include ‘Shall We Gather at the River’, ‘The Cage’ and ‘The Side Show’.



61 works by Ives, Charles

  • 3 Quarter-Tone Pieces (arr. A. Stout)
  • 3 Quarter-Tone Pieces: No. 3. Chorale
  • 3-Page Sonata
  • A Set of 3 Short Pieces (version for string orchestra)
  • A Set of Pieces
  • A Set of Three Short Pieces (version for string quartet)
  • A Son of a Gambolier, March (arr. J. Elkus)
  • A Symphony: New England Holidays
  • A Symphony: New England Holidays: II. Decoration Day
  • Central Park in the Dark
  • [+] Country Band March
    • Country Band March
    • Country Band March (arr. J. Sinclair for concert band)
  • Crossing the Bar
  • December
  • Emerson Overture for Piano and Orchestra
  • From the Steeples and the Mountains
  • Fugue in Four Keys on The Shining Shore
  • General William Booth Enters into Heaven (arr. J.J. Becker)
  • Gyp the Blood or Hearst!? Which is Worst?!
  • Hallowe'en
  • Largo for Violin, Clarinet and Piano
  • Largo risoluto No. 1
  • Lincoln, the Great Commoner
  • March in F Major and C Major with Omega Lambda Chi (arr. K. Brion)
  • March Intercollegiate with Annie Lisle (arr. K. Brion)
  • Mists I
  • [+] Orchestral Set No. 1
    • Orchestral Set No. 1, "3 Places in New England"
    • Orchestral Set No. 1, "3 Places in New England" (version 1, ed. J.B. Sinclair)
  • Orchestral Set No. 2
  • [+] Overture and March 1776
    • Overture and March 1776
    • Overture and March 1776 (arr. J. Sinclair)
  • Overture in G Minor (realization by D.G. Porter)
  • [+] Piano Sonata No. 2
    • Piano Sonata No. 2, "Concord, Mass., 1840-60" (arr. H. Brant as A Concord Symphony)
    • Piano Sonata No. 2, "Concord, Mass., 1840-60", "Concord Sonata"
  • Postlude in F Major (ed. K. Singleton)
  • Psalm 67, "God be merciful unto us"
  • Robert Browning Overture
  • Scherzo for String Quartet
  • Scherzo: All the Way Around and Back
  • [+] String Quartet No. 1
    • String Quartet No. 1, "From the Salvation Army"
    • String Quartet No. 1, "From the Salvation Army": I. Chorale (arr. M. Sintchak)
  • String Quartet No. 2
  • Study No. 2
  • Study No. 21
  • Study No. 9
  • Symphony No. 1
  • Symphony No. 2
  • Symphony No. 3, "The Camp Meeting"
  • Symphony No. 4
  • The Circus Band (arr. G.F. Roberts)
  • The General Slocum (realization by D.G. Porter)
  • The Gong on the Hook and Ladder, "Firemen's Parade on Main Street"
  • The New River
  • The Pond
  • The Rainbow, "So May It Be!"
  • The Unanswered Question
  • They are There!
  • Tone Roads et al
  • Universe Symphony (completed by L. Austin)
  • Variations on America (arr. W. Schuman for orchestra)
  • Variations on Jerusalem the Golden, "Fantasia on Jerusalem the Golden" (arr. K. Brion)
  • Violin Sonata No. 1
  • Violin Sonata No. 2
  • Violin Sonata No. 4, "Children's Day at the Camp Meeting"
  • Washington's Birthday
  • Yale-Princeton Football Game (realization by J.B. Sinclair)