Charlie is best known among financiers as one of the founders of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York. It was Ives who invented the concept of life insurance as a tool of estate planning. He was a busy and successful insurance executive for his almost 80 years of life.
He was a Connecticut man by birth (1874), from Danbury. His father had been a rather dissolute Army bandmaster during the Civil War, and the old man had been court-martialed for drunkenness on more than one occasion. But he gave Charlie a sound foundation in music. The old man would play a tune on the violin in one key, and he expected Charlie to sing along with it one half-tone higher.
Charlie got his music degree at Yale during a period when the department was dominated by Germans. By day he worked in downtown Manhattan in the insurance game, and at night and on weekends he composed. Ives also worked as a church organist in Manhattan and proved to be a gifted arranger of hymns. At night in Manhattan, he would pop in at clubs in Harlem and sit down at the piano and accompany.
Charlie wanted to prove to himself that he could write a Romantic symphony in the tradition of Brahms and Dvorak. His Second Symphony from 1902 contains snippets of those composers plus Wagner, hymns, folk songs, the songs of Stephen Foster, and college tunes from Yale. It was ignored until 1951, when Leonard Bernstein conducted the premiere with the New York Philharmonic. It became a huge hit. Ives listened to it at home by radio and was so moved that he left the room to avoid people seeing him cry.
Its technically in five movements, but its really in three.
The first movement has a long introduction in B minor, followed by a really abrupt modulation to A-flat Major for a movement in sonata format. The introduction features a snippet from Bachs Third Brandenburg Concerto and another from the finale of Brahms First Symphony. Youll also recognize Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean on horns against Bach on strings.
The first movement contains references to Bringing in the Sheaves, Where are the Verdant Freshmen, Little Brown Jug, and Wagners Magic Fire Music from The Valkyrie.
The slow movement in F Major contains snippets of America the Beautiful, the slow movement of Dvoraks Sixth Symphony, and a host of folk tunes and hymns. See if you can spot them!
The finale begins with the same B minor introduction that started the work, but this time its drastically abridged. It executes an abrupt modulation to F Major for the finale itself, again in sonata format. This time the snippets quoted come from Camptown Races, Turkey in the Straw, Anchors Aweigh, Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, and Reveille. At the coda, he plays all these themes on top of each other, and the end is the musical equivalent of an exploding cigar. Audiences laugh and applaud at the same time.
Very nice! :)
Very nice listening music, Publius...thanks!