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Ives' Violin Sonata No. 2 consists of the following movements:

  • i. Autumn
  • ii. In the Barn
  • iii. The Revival


Ives commented in his Memos that the Second Violin Sonata was "based, to a large extent, on the old ragtime stuff" [69]. As with the other violin sonatas, he was somewhat ambivalent about the work in his latter years. [For more information about Ives' attitudes toward the violin sonatas, see my commentary for the First Violin Sonata.] In any case, the vivid and nostalgic Second Violin Sonata has been one of Ives' most frequently recorded chamber works. It's not hard to understand why: It's a lovely piece.

Composition History

Ives assembled and re-composed the Violin Sonata No. 2 circa 1914, based on works that he had originally composed in 1901, 1903, and 1907-10. He also made revisions to the work in 1919.

Ives used portions of the "Pre-First Violin Sonata" in the first movement, while also incorporating passages from the song "His Exaltation." The second movement also uses material from the "Pre-First." The third movement is based on a rejected fourth movement of the Violin Sonata No. 4.

In the first movement Ives quotes the song "Autumn." In the second movement he borrows from a number of sources, including:

  • "The Battle Cry of Freedom"
  • "Sailor's Hornpipe"
  • "Turkey in the Straw"
  • "The White Cockade"
  • Ives' own "Four Ragtime Dances," No. 1

The third movement Ives quotes "Nettleton."

Premiere Performance

Jerome Goldstein (violin) and Rex Tillson (piano) premiered the Second Violin Sonata on March 18, 1924 in a recital at Aeolian Hall, New York City. [Look on page 73 in Vivian Perlis' oral history, Charles Ives Remembered, for a reproduction of the original concert program / poster. Interesting.]

Premiere Recording

The first recording of the complete work was by Patricia Travers (violin) and Otto Herz (piano). It was issued on Columbia Records in 1951.



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Original text copyright Scott Mortensen 2002