Composers Datebook®

Ives at Yaddo

Charles Ives (1874 – 1954) String Quartet No. 2 (Emerson Quartet) DG 435 864

Composer's Datebook - 20210915


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September 15, 2021


On today’s date in 1946, at the Yaddo Music Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York, the Walden Quartet gave the first professional performance of the String Quartet No. 2 by the American composer Charles Ives.

Ives’ String Quartet No. 1 was his first major work – its manuscript is dated 1896, back when Ives was a 21-year old student at Yale. While Ives’ First Quartet was written under the watchful eye and conservatively tonal ear of the Yale music professor Horatio Parker, Ives’ Second, composed between 1907 and 1913, is more often than not a wildly atonal work that would have given poor Professor Parker a heart attack.

On the first page of its score, Ives provided a kind of program. It reads: “String Quartet for four men who converse, discuss, argue politics, fight, shake hands, shut up, and then walk up the mountainside to view the firmament.”

Judging from some musical quotations in the first movement of Ives’ Quartet, it seems the American Civil War was one of the political topics fought over by the four men mentioned by Ives, and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is quoted, along with Ives’ perennial favorite, “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Charles Ives (1874 – 1954) String Quartet No. 2 (Emerson Quartet) DG 435 864

On This Day


  • 1863 - American composer and teacher, Horatio William Parker, in Auburndale, Mass.; He became chairman of the Yale music department in 1894, where he taught the young Charles Ives;

  • 1890 - Swiss composer Frank Martin, in Geneva;

  • 1913 - American composer Henry Brant, in Montréal, Canada;


  • 1945 - Austrian composer Anton von Webern, age 61, accidentally shot by an American soldier in Mittersill, Austria;


  • 1946 - Cowell: "Hymn and Fuguing Tune" No. 5 (string orchestra arrangement), at the Saratoga Springs Convention Hall, by the Spa Music Festival Orchestra, F. Charles Adler conducting; This music was originally written for 5 voices, and in that form was premiered on April 14, 1946, at Times Hall in New York by the Randolph Singers directed by David Randolph;

  • 1946 - Ives: String Quartet No. 2, at the Yaddo Music Festival in Saratoga, N.Y., by the Walden Quartet (This music was completed in 1913);

  • 2000 - Sallinen: opera "King Lear," by the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki.