Composers Datebook®

Lou Harrison conducts an Ives premiere

Charles Ives (1874-1954) Symphony No. 3 Concertgebouw Orchestra; Michael Tilson Thomas, cond. CBS/Sony 37823

Composers Datebook for April 5, 2021


April 05, 2021


On today’s date in 1946, composer Lou Harrison conducted the premiere performance of an orchestral work written some 45 years earlier. It was the Third Symphony of Charles Ives, composed between 1901 and 1904.

Early in 1911, Ives had sent the score for his symphony for consideration to the major New York orchestras of his day, Walter Damrosch’s New York Symphony and Gustav Mahler’s New York Philharmonic. Damrosch never responded, but it seems Mahler took notice. In 1911, the gravely ill Mahler took Ives’ score with him when he returned to Vienna for treatment, apparently with the intention of performing it. Sadly, Mahler died before that could happen, and Ives’ Third would have to wait another 35 years for its premiere.

Lou Harrison’s 1946 performance was given by the Little Symphony of New York at Carnegie Hall’s smaller chamber music room. The critic for Musical America wrote: “Ives’ Third is an American masterpiece . . . as unmistakably a part of our land as Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick.”

Ives’s Symphony won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for Music. When notified of the award, the crusty Mr. Ives, then elderly, ill, and living in retirement, responded: “Prizes are for boys—I’m grown up.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Charles Ives (1874-1954) Symphony No. 3 Concertgebouw Orchestra; Michael Tilson Thomas, cond. CBS/Sony 37823

On This Day


  • 1784 - German composer, violinist and conductor Ludwig Spohr, in Brunswick;

  • 1869 - French composer Albert Roussel, in Tourcoing;

  • 1917 - American composer Richard Yardumian, in Philadelphia;


  • 1946 - American composer Vincent Youmans, age 47, in Denver;


  • 1803 - Beethoven: oratorio "Christus am Ölberg" (Christ on the Mount of Olives), Piano Concerto No. 3 and Symphony No. 2 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, with composer conducting and as piano soloist;

  • 1874 - Jh. Strauss, Jr.: operetta "Die Fledermaus" (The Bat), in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien;

  • 1902 - Ravel: "Jeux d'eau" (Fountains) for piano, in Paris, by Ravel's friend Ricardo Viñes;

  • 1914 - First concert performance of Stravinsky's ballet score, "The Rite of Spring," in Paris, conducted by Pierre Monteux (who also conducted the world premiere of the staged version of the ballet with Diaghilev's Ballet Russe on May 29, 1913);

  • 1939 - Gretchaninoff: Symphony No. 5, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

  • 1944 - Cage: "The Perilous Night," for prepared piano, in New York;

  • 1946 - Barber: Cello Concerto, by the Boston Symphony with Serge Koussevitzky conducting and Raya Garbousova the soloist;

  • 1946 - Ives: Symphony No. 3, at the smaller concert room at Carnegie Hall by the Little Orchestra, conducted by Lou Harrison; This work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music that year;

  • 1951 - Hindemith: Symphony in Bb for concert band, in Washington, DC, with the composer conducting;

  • 1958 - R. Strauss: "Duet-Concertino" for clarinet, bassoon and strings, by the Swiss Italian Radio;

  • 1980 - Christopher Rouse: "Mitternachtslieder" (Midnight Songs), for bass-baritone solo and ensemble, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, by the Contemporary Directions Ensemble conducted by Stephen Osmond, with vocal soloist Leslie Guinn.


  • 1877 - First documented American performance of Handel's "Largo"(from the opera "Xerxes”) as a concert piece (in the arrangement by Joseph Hellmesberger for solo violin and ensemble), at New York's Steinway Hall, by the Theodore Thomas Orchestra, with Simon E. Jacobsohn the violin soloists.