Ives' Violin Sonata No. 1 consists of the following movements:
In his Memos, Ives expressed ambivalence about some of his more traditional works, including the violin sonatas. Apparently, he thought that they were examples of his "weak-minded, retrogressive" work . He also specifically declared that the First Violin Sonata was "in part a kind slump backward, though in some places it is quite the opposite" . Frankly, I'm skeptical of the negative attitude that Ives expressed in his Memos. Surely, these are gentle, easy-going works, especially compared to spiky chamber works like the Second String Quartet. But even though the violin sonatas are more conventional (and more conventionally beautiful) than many of Ives' other works, they are also strong, honest compositions. In his Memos, Ives seems to be intent on characterizing himself as an unrepentant modernist, who only occasionally stooped to gentle, old-fashioned tonality. But even Ives' most "advanced" compositions contain extremely traditional elements. Here's a case where the artist is not his best critic. Remember also that Ives had composed the sonata works more than twenty years before he began collecting his thoughts in the Memos.
Listen to the music. Rather than any comments in the Memos, I think you'll find Ives' program, which he wrote on the First Violin Sonata score, much more insightful:
Ives assembled and recomposed the Violin Sonata No. 1 circa 1914 from earlier pieces that he had composed circa 1901 to 1908.
The second and third movements are both derived from earlier works. The second movement contains materials from Ives' so-called "Pre-First Sonata for Violin and Piano." Ives adapted the third movement from the song "Watchman!" Ives later reworked this movement/song for the first movement of the Fourth Symphony.
The first movement contains the following "borrowed" tunes: "The Old Oaken Bucket" and "The Shining Shore," among others. The second movement quotes "The Old Oaken Bucket," along with "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp." The third movement incorporates "Watchman," "Work Song," and quotes material from the Second Violin Sonata.
The First Violin Sonata premiered in San Francisco on November 27, 1928. Dorothy Minty (violin) and Marjorie Gear (piano) performed the work in a recital for the New Music Society of California.
Joan Field (violin) and Leopold Mittman (piano) made the first recording of this work in 1951 for Lyrichord records.