Ives commented in his Memos that the Second Violin Sonata was "based, to a large extent, on the old ragtime stuff" . 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.
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 third movement Ives quotes "Nettleton."
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.]
The first recording of the complete work was by Patricia Travers (piano) and Otto Herz (piano). It was issued on Columbia Records in 1951.