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Ives' Piano Trio consists of the following three movements:

  • i. Moderato
  • ii. "TSIAJ"--Presto
  • iii. Moderato con moto

The fanciful alternative title that Ives sketched on the title page: "Trio Yalensia & Americana--for Violin Cello Piano -- Fancy Names" "Real Names = Yankee jaws--at Mr. (or Eli) Yale's School for nice bad boys!!"

The second movement, "TSIAJ," stands for "This Scherzo is a Joke."


In my humble opinion, this work stands as one of Ives' greatest works. Here's what Ives had to say about it (as quoted in Kirkpatrick's "Comparison of Sources"):

...The Trio was, in a general way . . . a reflection or impression of . . . college days on the Campus, now 50 years ago. The first movement recalled a rather short but serious talk, to those on the Yale fence, by an old professor of Philosophy; the second, the games and antics by the students . . . on a Holiday afternoon; and some of the tunes and songs of those days were . . . suggested in this movement, sometimes in a rough way. The last movement was partly a remembrance of a Sunday Service on the Campus . . . which ended near the "Rock of Ages."

For more commentary and a complete streaming video performance of the Piano Trio by the ensemble Triple Helix, go to the following link: http://streams.wgbh.org/forum/forum.php?lecture_id=1193 . (The program also includes a not-so-terribly exciting lecture on Emerson & transcendentalism, and selected movements from the violin sonatas.)

Composition History

Ives probably composed the Piano Trio in 1896 and from circa 1904 to 1907. He also probably made revisions to the work in 1911and circa 1914.

Most of the "borrowed" material appears in the second movement. Some of the tunes quoted in it are:

  • "A Band of Brothers in DKE"
  • "The Campbells Are Comin'"
  • "Dixie's Land Few Days"
  • "Marching Through Georgia"
  • "My Old Kentucky Home"
  • "Pig Town Fling"
  • "Sweet By and By"
  • "Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay"

Premiere Performance

The Piano Trio was premiered in May 1948 at the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music in Berea, Ohio. The Baldwin-Wallace College Faculty Trio performed the work.

Premiere Recording

The Nieuw Amsterdam Trio made the first recording of the work, issued in 1966 by Decca Records.



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Original text copyright Scott Mortensen 2002