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. 3Concertgebouw Orchestra; Michael Tilson Thomas, cond.CBS/Sony 37823
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