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Ives' Piano Sonata No. 1 consists of the following five movements:

  • i. Adagio con moto
  • iia. First Verse: Allegro moderato
  • iib. Second Verse: "In the Inn": Allegro
  • iii. Largo--allegro--largo
  • iva. [no tempo indication]
  • ivb. Allegro--presto
  • v. Andante maestoso


Like the Second Orchestral Set, the First Piano Sonata is underrated, compared to its more popular sibling. According to Swafford's biography of Ives, the First Piano Sonata was the second of Ives' "orphans." These were works with which Ives was never satisfied and which he eventually abandoned. (The other "orphan" was the Robert Browning Overture.) But don't let that fool you. This is a tremendous sonata. Sure, it doesn't scale the heights of the "Concord." But what does?

Composition History

Ives assembled and revised the Piano Sonata No. 1 "as late as 1919" (according to Sinclair) from works composed circa 1901 to 1909.

Ives' derivations:

  • The first movement is based on a lost Recital Piece for Organ.
  • The second movement incorporates no. 2 from Four Ragtime Dances.
  • The third movement also uses music from Four Ragtime Dances (no. 1). This piece was also re-orchestrated as movement two ("In the Inn") of Set For Theater Orchestra.
  • The fourth movement also incorporates Four Ragtime Dances (no. 4).
  • The fifth movement is adapted from the Set of Five Take-Offs (no. 4). He also borrows from Study No. 22.

Borrowed tunes include:

  • "Lebanon"
  • "Bringing in the Sheaves"
  • "Happy Day"
  • "Erie"
  • "Welcome Voice"

Premiere Performance

Pianist William Masselos premiered Sonata No. 1 for Piano on February 17, 1949. (Incidentally, he also premiered the Three-Page Sonata on April 25 of the same year.)

Premiere Recording

William Masselos also made the first recording of the work for Columbia Records. It was released in 1953.



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Original text copyright Scott Mortensen 2002