Ives' String Quartet No. 2 consists of the following three movements:
Ives wrote the following words below the title of the score:
Ives considered the Second String Quartet to be "one of the best things I have, but the old ladies (male and female) don't like it anywhere at all. It makes them mad..." (Memos 73-74). As he jokingly implies, this is one of Ives' most thorny, challenging works. In the Memos, he went on to explain the origins of the quartet:
It's clear that on one level this work represents Ives lashing out at the conservative musical establishment that rejected him and wanted nothing to do with his music. So, on one level, this is some of the most confrontational music that Ives would ever write. But, on another level, this is another example of Ives' romantic transcendentalism. The work's conflict resolves itself with the a shaking of hands and a "walk up the mountain side to view the firmament!" In my view, the closing passage of this work is as grand as anything Ives ever composed. It really is magnificent.
Ives composed / assembled the String Quartet No. 2 from 1911-13. (Portions of the second movement appear to have been composed as early as 1907.)
Borrowed tunes include:
The first performance of the String Quartet No. 2 was in NYC on May 11, 1946. The work was performed by a Juilliard School student ensemble. (The same concert also featured the premiere performances of "The Unanswered Question" and "Central Park in the Dark.")
The Walden String Quartet issued the first recording of this work in 1946.