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Born in 1874
Inducted in 1998
Ives was born into a family with direct connections to music expressive of the American character: his father was a New England bandmaster who provided his earliest training and made him the band's drummer at the age of 12. At 14 Ives was the youngest salaried church organist in Connecticut. With his father as his instructor, he set Psalms to music, exploring a different musical idea in each. He continued to work as organist at various churches through his years at Yale where he studied composition with Horatio Parker.
As a young composer of music which the world was far from ready to embrace, Ives understood early on that he would have to support himself in a different line of work. After his graduation from Yale he went into the insurance business, eventually forming, in partnership with Julian Myrick one of the most successful brokerages in New York.
In 1930 Ives retired from his business and devoted himself fulltime to his compositions, which had grown in number up to 1918. In 1931 Nicolas Slonimsky and his Boston Chamber Orchestra gave the belated premiere of Three Places in New England. It was to accommodate the size of Slonimsky's orchestra that Ives revised his score.
Ives's Second Symphony, completed in 1901, remained unheard until Leonard Bernstein conducted the New York Philharmonic in its premiere in 1951. Ives did not attend that milestone performance, but heard it on a little radio in the kitchen of his home. The other symphonies waited similar periods for their respective premieres, that of the Fourth, composed in 1915, taking place under Leopold Stokowski as late as 1965. The Holidays Symphony, whose four movements were composed in the first decade of the 20th century was given its first "integral" performance in 1954, under Antal Dorati.
Although Ives received a Pulitzer Prize in 1947, following the premiere of his Third Symphony, it was not till the Sixties that his music achieved worldwide recognition and acceptance, through enthusiastic performances and a great deal of attention in the form of recordings. His Second Piano Sonata, titled Concord, Mass., 18401860, with each of its four movements representing a New England literary figure, took its place in the repertory; his 114 songs began to be known. William Schuman made a stunning orchestral showpiece out of the Variations on "America," which Ives had composed for organ at the age of 17.
Performer: Joy Burdett (soprano), Yu-Wen Yang (piano)