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Ives' String Quartet No. 1, From the Salvation Army, consists of the following four movements:

  • i. Chorale (Adante con moto)
  • ii. Prelude (Allegro)
  • iii. Offertory (Adagio cantibile)
  • iv. Postlude (Allegro marziale)


Ives wrote the First String Quartet at Yale during his sophomore year. Ives biographer Jan Swafford has the following words to say about the work:

The First String Quartet is no "masterpiece," but neither is it negligible. It rambles and essays some dubious experiments, but it stands up a century later as a work of precocious individuality and charm. For the student Ives it represents another leap in imagination sophistication, and a step closer to his mature voice (125).

Like many of Ives' compositions, the work is based on a series of compositions that Ives had written for church services. The piece is also subtitled "A Revival Service," and it liberally quotes a variety of hymns that were popular in Ives' day. Ives later recalled the criticisms of Horatio Parker, his music teacher at Yale, who was scandalized that a "serious" piece of music was based on hymn tunes.

Composition History

Ives composed the String Quartet No. 1 from 1898 to 1902, based on earlier organ and string works from 1896-1898. Unfortunately, all of these organ works are now lost.

Ives later re-worked the first movement of this work as the third movement in the Fourth Symphony.

Borrowed tunes include:

  • "Missionary Hymn"
  • "Coronation"
  • Bach, "Toccata and Fugue in D minor"
  • "Nettleton"
  • "Beulah Land"
  • "The Shining Shore"
  • "Webb"

Premiere Performance

The first documented complete performance of the String Quartet No. 1 took place on April 24, 1957. It was performed by the Kohon String Quartet. The concert took place at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Premiere Recording

The Kohon String Quartet also issued the first recording of this work in 1963 (Vox STDL-501120).


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Original text copyright Scott Mortensen 2002