A Charles Ives Timeline

Classic Arts Features   A Charles Ives Timeline
The life of the composer Charles Ives, the subject of a New York Philharmonic festival this month.

October 20, 1874: Charles Edward Ives is born in Danbury, "the most musical town in Connecticut." George Ives, his father, was the town's band director, theater orchestra leader, choir director, music teacher, and the most influential musician in the region.

"Father had a kind of natural interest in sounds of every kind, known or unknown, measured as such or not."

1888: George Ives performs one of his 14-year-old son's earliest compositions, Holiday Quickstep, at Taylor's Opera House in Danbury. In the same year, the young Charles Ives begins performing as a church organist at the First Baptist Church near his home.

1898: Ives graduates from Yale where he had studied composition with American composer Horatio Parker.

"I did sometimes do things that got me in the wrong; for instance a couple of fugues with the theme in four different keys. . . ."

1900: Ives becomes the organist at the Central Presbyterian Church in New York City.

June 1908: Ives marries Harmony Twichell, the daughter of the influential Hartford minister Reverend Joseph Twichell.

1909: Ives, who does not want his children to "starve on his dissonances," forms the Ives & Myrick Insurance Agency, with his friend, Julian Myrick. The partnership proves to be a successful one.

"My work in music helped my business and my work in business helped my music. . . . There can be nothing exclusive about a substantial art. It comes directly out of the heart of experience of life and thinking about life and living life."

March 19, 1910: Walter Damrosch leads the New York Symphony in an informal reading of movements of Ives's Symphony No. 1‹the first reading of an Ives work by a major orchestra.

1918: Ives suffers a severe heart attack; despite the fact that he would live for many years, he never fully recovers, and other maladies would continue to plague him for the remainder of his life.

"It seemed impossible to do any work in the evening as I used to."

January 29, 1927: Eugene Goossens leads 50 musicians of the New York Philharmonic in the premiere of the first two movements of Ives's Symphony No. 4 for the Pro-Musica Society.

1927: Around this time, Ives stops composing, although he continues to edit and revise his earlier works.

1930: Ives retires from the insurance business and the public life of his music begins, finding an ever-increasing number of advocates promoting and performing his music. He dictates his reminiscences about his life and music, published four decades later in 1972, as Memos.

1947: Ives is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 3. Ives grumbles upon receiving the award, and promptly gives the prize money away.

"Prizes are the badges of mediocrity."

February 22-23, 1951: Leonard Bernstein conducts the New York Philharmonic in the world premiere of Symphony No. 2‹the Philharmonic's first performance of a work by Ives. Although a case of nerves precludes Ives's attendance (Harmony was sent in his place), he hears the performance 11 days later on a tape-delayed Sunday radio broadcast.

July 30, 1953: Leonard Bernstein conducts the New York Philharmonic in the premiere of From the Steeples and the Mountains.

May 19, 1954: Ives suffers a stroke and dies.

1974: Ives is remembered in worldwide centenary celebrations recognizing him as the first composer of a distinctly American art music.

1997: Charles Ives is commemorated on a postage stamp in the U.S. Postal Service series "Legends of American Music."

2004: On the 50th anniversary of Ives's death, the New York Philharmonic participates in a worldwide celebration of Ives's life and work with its New York Philharmonic Festival:Charles Ives‹An American Original in Context.

A more detailed version of this timeline is available on the Philharmonic's Website, newyorkphilharmonic.org.

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