Following the Concord Sonata

By Kyle Gann


Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne - two of America's most distinguished essayists and two of its most enduring novelists - are all buried within several yards of each other in a section called "Author's Row" in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. Emerson and Alcott's father Amos Bronson Alcott were central figures in the Transcendentalist movement, a religious movement that prized the individual spiritual consciousness above scripture and dogma; Thoreau was a more peripheral figure, though later a founding saint of the environmentalist movement. Louisa May Alcott wrote books for young readers still read today, like Little Women and Little Men; Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables.

"Emerson," "Hawthorne," "The Alcotts," and "Thoreau" are also the titles of the four movements of a piano sonata by Charles Ives. Son of the director of the town marching bands of Danbury, Connecticut, Ives had been composing since his teenage years, and was a virtuoso organist - in fact, the youngest professional organist in Connecticut. But he opted not to make a living in music, possibly because he had seen his father struggle so much, and instead went into the insurance business, eventually co-founding the New York insurance agency Ives & Myrick. For years he composed during evenings, weekends, and vacations, but when he developed diabetes, which people tended to die quickly from before the invention of insulin, he started thinking he needed to make his music public while he still could. In 1920 he had the sonata based on these literary figures printed at his own expense, and the following January he mailed copies to 200 surprised strangers in the music world. The reasons for surprise were many: if the recipients knew his name at all, why was an insurance executive writing piano sonatas? Why would someone try to portray the famous authors of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in a piano sonata? Even more peculiar, the piece was characterized by unprecedented complexity and crashing dissonances, and it quoted the opening of Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony with disconcerting frequency.

At first, many writers treated the piece as a joke, but a few musicians (among them the newly-famous George Gershwin) were immediately intrigued. A scattering of intrepid pianists began performing individual movements, and Ives's reputation grew incrementally. Finally, when John Kirkpatrick played a complete premiere in New York in 1939, the piece was hailed in the New York Tribune as "the greatest music composed by an American." And when a recording finally appeared in 1948, it was a classical best seller.

Today, the Piano Sonata No. 2, "Concord, Mass. 1840-1860" - as it is officially titled - is probably Ives's best-known work aside from The Unanswered Question, a chamber orchestra piece that Leonard Bernstein made famous. But the Concord Sonata, as it is familiarly called, remains one of those works that some newcomers to Ives's music still have trouble approaching. This article will attempt to ease that difficulty. After all, despite the extraordinary pianistic virtuosity the piece demands, more than forty-five pianists have recorded the Concord - it may be the most often-recorded 20th-century piano work. That so many have been devoted to it attests to the beauties one learns to hear in it.

Listening to the Concord Sonata

Some people find the Concord dissonantly jarring, though its chaotic parts are contrasted with passages of transcendent beauty and even humor as well. But I think the greatest barrier to appreciating the piece is one Ives put there deliberately: the opening page is not understandable until you've become familiar with the rest of the piece. Classical music had always started out simply, with an opening theme, and then developed it to increase the complexity in a logical manner. Ives (and this may be the most original thing about him) invented an opposite tendency: starting at maximum complexity and gradually clarifying his ideas. Have you ever had a conversation in which at first people were talking angrily and at cross-purposes, but as they continued things became clearer and clearer, and they realized better what they were actually saying, bringing about a consensus of meaning if not necessarily opinion? That's a process roughly implied by the Concord Sonata, and by some of Ives's other works as well.

There is a main theme to the Concord Sonata, in fact, a cyclic theme (meaning that it appears in all four movements). In the first few minutes of the piece, you hear parts of it played collage-like among other thematic fragments, and there is no way to tell at first what the significance of these fragments will turn out to be. Many people will tune out quickly. It's important, I think, to listen to the piece this way, because it's the experience Ives wanted you to have. But if you want to understand the opening, the key to it lies in the third movement, "The Alcotts." At the end of this movement, the sonata's main theme, which Ives (in a book called Essays Before a Sonata, written to accompany the Concord) called the "human faith melody," is finally stated in its most simple and complete form:

Example 1: The Human Faith Melody

It is a magnificent theme; from an opening do-re-mi it plunges down from its highest register as though it begins in mid-thought, as it would resume some emotively potent sentence left unfinished before. "But even so...," we could perhaps translate those first four notes. Then, against expectations, it ventures back up into that high register, pauses, and makes a fearful pronouncement, a motive universally associated with Beethoven - E E E C, transposed from that composer's Fifth Symphony - yet not angry or peremptory, as in Beethoven's use, but noble, yearning, and vulnerable. And as if that isn't emphatic enough, it inches upward again, before coming resignedly down to the tonic. The theme goes down deep into itself and comes back up to exhaust itself in trying to make the truth sufficiently emphatic.

The human faith melody divides into two parts: the first half that comes down and goes up again, and the second half that begins with Beethoven's Fifth. In the "Emerson" movement, Ives uses the two parts only separately, at one point playing the two halves at the same time in different keys. Likewise, in "Hawthorne," each half makes an occasional dramatic appearance, though the first four notes also occur frequently as a motto. In "The Alcotts" the entire theme begins to appear intact, tentatively at first, but then triumphantly at the end. And after that apotheosis, the "Thoreau" movement avoids it until near the end, when it suddenly appears - played by a flute! Yes, there is supposed to be a flute solo at the end of this piano sonata, though Ives wrote a separate version for those pianists who don't have a flutist handy. In fact, Ives's sketches suggest that his initial idea for the sonata was this melody in the flute (because Thoreau loved to play the flute over Walden Pond) over a mystically repetitive piano part. And so the piece really does end (or almost) with the initial idea Ives had for it as he was vacationing at Elk Lake Lodge in 1911.

In its largest outlines, that is the shape of the Concord Sonata in a nutshell. Now we'll take up each movement separately.

"Emerson"

Ives's intent in the "Emerson" movement was to mirror what he saw as the grand, nonlinear chaos of interrelated ideas that he perceived in Emerson's essays. The movement does have, however, a few features in common with classical sonata form: mainly, that some of the material of the first third of the movement reappears at the end. In particular there are two big climaxes based on the Beethoven's Fifth motive in angry C minor, one about a third of the way through, and an almost identical one just before the slow dying away at the end. These are two of the movement's major landmarks.

The "Emerson" movement, though, had its origins in an "Emerson Concerto" (sometimes called "Emerson Overture") that Ives had worked on, without finishing it, in 1910-1911. Knowing this concerto origin makes the form easier to understand. Basically, if you hear the loud, tempestuous passages as being the orchestra framing, or punctuating, the softer parts, and the softer parts as the soloist, you can get a feel for how the music proceeds. (For the concerto, Ives described the soloist as Emerson, and the orchestra as the masses responding.) Instead of a traditional development, Ives separates the beginning from the end of the piece with a series of episodes. Each episode - except the extraordinary one in the middle (pp. 8-11 in the score) - crescendos at the end into a climax (as though the orchestra comes in) based on either the Beethoven's Fifth motive or another theme that scholars call the Emerson theme:

Example 2: The Emerson Theme

This uses the same first five notes as the human faith melody, in a different order, and I add the last two notes in parentheses because sometimes its descending pattern continues.

The first page of the movement is introductory, stating seven different themes (not all of them complete or equally important) in overlapping confusion. It's like a movie starting with a battle scene, and you don't know who's fighting yet. Best to just let this part wash over you. Once the music becomes softer, both halves of the human faith melody are played at once: the first half (varied) in the right hand in the key of C, the second half in the left hand in A-flat (or G-sharp). After this, the episodes begin. Each episode tends to pick up some idea from the previous one, and you can tell when an episode ends because there's a climax with the Beethoven's Fifth motive and/or Emerson theme.

The first episode is murky and contrapuntal, weaving the Emerson theme together with a more chromatic motive. The second episode has a playful and more galloping momentum, and strings together motives from several of the themes. The third begins with a quiet theme that some commentators have classified as the traditional "second theme" of sonata form. Some call it the "lyric theme," and I call it the "verse theme" because Ives labels it "verse" in the score. (He was thinking of the piece being divided into prose sections and poetry sections, since Emerson was a master of both.)

Example 3: The Verse Theme

This leads to a false recapitulation - it sounds like the movement is starting over - but instead it plunges into the first big Beethoven's Fifth climax. The big middle episode, though, which comes next, is different. It both starts and ends softly, with a descending melody in high register, gaining new notes with each repetition, over slightly more dissonant patterns rising up in the bass.

Example 4: The Nature Theme

This melody is repeated several times, gaining force and thickness with each repetition, a little bit like Ravel's Bolero. (I call this the "nature" episode, because the lines bubbling up from the bass approximate a harmonic series, a common signifier of nature for many composers. One of Emerson's most famous essays was called "Nature.") And you'll notice that all four themes I've provided here are pretty much in simple C major, emphasizing that simplest of scales, the pentatonic. For all of the Concord's daunting complexity, its themes are mostly easy to grasp and sing, which is why people often end up finding the piece less complicated than it seems at first.

This central episode is followed by a delicate song-like one based on the Emerson theme, which leads to an ambitious and admittedly often confusing fugue-like episode largely based on the verse theme. Then the recapitulation begins, meaning some of the opening material comes back (starting with the first episode). After the second big Beethoven's Fifth climax, the remainder of the piece dies away, getting softer and softer, as the Emerson theme is taken apart and the Beethoven's Fifth motive heard echoing in two mutually distant keys, A major and E-flat major. (There are some notes here sometimes played by a viola on recordings, because Ives wrote "viola" next to them - but examination of the sketches seems to indicate that he was merely noting that those notes were played by the viola in the original "Emerson Concerto.") The movement ends on a slow, mysterious Beethoven's Fifth motive in the bass.

"Hawthorne"

"Hawthorne" is an equally mammoth and difficult movement, but quite different in listening mode. Whereas "Emerson" has some sonata-form logic to it, and some motivic development to lead you along, "Hawthorne" is more of an impressionist collage of images without linear threads to follow. In his essay Ives mentions a number of stories by Hawthorne that inspired these images. Thus, sparkling textures float past the listener as on a magic lantern, and one lets the phantasmagoria glide by.

The movement was partly inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1843 satirical story "The Celestial Rail-Road," which was itself a parody on John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. This latter novel is not much read today, but a few decades ago it was second in popularity only to the Bible in the English-speaking world. Pilgrim's Progress is a 17th-century religious allegory about a man named Christian who, carrying a great sack of sins on his back, makes a journey from the City of Destruction through the Slough of Despond, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Vanity Fair, and other symbolic locations to the Celestial City. In Hawthorne's satire, the journey can now be easily made in a comfortable train, with the sack of sins stored in luggage: thus Hawthorne made fun of the nineteenth-century hypocrisy that allowed people to consider themselves good Christians without the inconvenience, humility, and self-denying hard work of following Christ's (or Bunyan's Christian's) example.

And so, if you listen for evocations of a chugging locomotive in Hawthorne, you will hear them. Ives mentioned in a 1913 memo that he did not follow Hawthorne's story linearly, but imagined a boy hopping on and off the train to have adventures. The opening whirl of arpeggios, Ives notes, depict the "'Magical Frost Waves' on the Berkshire dawn window," a reference to the introduction to the story "The Three Golden Apples" in A Wonder Book, in which children wake up to find frost covering the windows. The energy of the train ride starts up pretty soon afterward, and the music flickers between major and minor.

In the first slow image, the pianist uses a 15-inch board covered with felt to play quiet tone clusters on the black keys in the upper register as a languid melody plays underneath. This, I've strongly come to feel, may be a depiction of Phoebe's garden in Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables, which Ives mentions without identifying any specific musical passage. In the novel, Phoebe's garden is the only place in that gloomy, accursed dwelling where anything blooms, and where the artist Holgrave courts the innocent heroine Phoebe.

This ethereal passage breaks into a lightning-fast "rag," and while Ives was probably one of the first white East-Coast pianists to play ragtime, he did not produce what we think of as ragtime pieces. He used the word "rag" far more often as a verb than a noun, and his main interest in it was for syncopation, hitting accented notes just before the beat. A little dance that breaks out in this section seems to be a reference to Hawthorne's story "The Seven Vagabonds," about a group of travelers heading for a camp meeting who take refuge from the rain in a magician's covered wagon and perform a sprightly jig.

Eventually there is a fraught appearance of the Beethoven's Fifth motive and the second half of the human faith melody. Then a series of interruptions: the ragtime material is broken into twice by quiet quotations of a hymn, called Martyn ("Jesus, lover of my soul, / Let me to thy bosom fly"), which has contours similar to the human faith melody. It seems to me that these interruptions represent the hymn-singing pilgrims in "The Celestial Rail-Road" whom the travelers on the train see in the valley below and pity for their strenuous and seemingly unnecessary foot-travel.

From this halfway point, "The Celestial Rail-Road" rather falls by the wayside. (Ives also wrote a shorter piano work called The Celestial Railroad using much of the same material and sticking more closely to the story.) The third continuation of the rag material leads abruptly into a march, of the kind Ives would have been entirely familiar with from being the son of the man who led the Danbury town band. Some clusters in the piano preserve how young Charlie liked to imitate the drums on his home piano. The march slows to a pause, and then a long, rather rambling ragtime section begins again. It culminates in a famous climactic passage of fist clusters, the fantasy of every devilish boy who's ever wanted to pound his fists all over the piano keyboard and get away with it in "a serious sonata."

From this dramatic point the music starts up again slowly, and the left hand begins introducing phrases from the old patriotic song "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," which becomes increasingly recognizable in a common Ivesian process that Ives scholar Peter Burkholder has termed "cumulative form." After a few jokes played on the theme, the music hurls into a whirlwind of notes that I have just come to call "The Blizzard" - a kaleidoscope of complex triplet-time figures with the occasional recognizable motive flying by like detritus in a storm. At the end, the music makes a few last references to "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean," and then one more reminiscence of the pilgrims, and a final joke splashes across the keyboard.

"The Alcotts"

The "Alcotts" movement is the shortest one, and the simplest by far. When the first pianists attempted to play the Concord, Ives warned them that audiences might find "Emerson" and "Hawthorne" difficult to take, but that "The Alcotts" and "Thoreau" should prove acceptable.

In explaining "The Alcotts," Ives refers to three members of the family: Bronson Alcott, whose "philosophical raptures" and "sonorous thoughts" he tried to evoke; Louisa May Alcott, whose books taught "moral precepts" to children; and Lizzy Alcott, the family pianist, who was the model for poor doomed Beth in Little Women, and whom Ives imagines as "playing at Beethoven's Fifth." Attaching these models to passages in the music, however, is not so straightforward.

This is the movement most based on the human faith melody. The theme appears virtually entire, with some anomalies, in the movement's calm introduction. Some of the variations come from a 19th-century "Missionary Hymn" that uses the same repeating note dropping by a major third as Beethoven's Fifth, so the two themes get a little intertwined. The human faith melody is in B-flat, but the piano accompanies it with bass chords in the key of A-flat; Ives explains, "old man Alcott likes to talk in A-flat, and Sam Staples likes to have his say over the fence in B-flat." Sam Staples was the Concord sheriff who once threw Thoreau in jail for refusing to pay his poll tax (though Staples offered to pay it for him if Thoreau would let him). Once Thoreau began to be rediscovered in the 1890s, Staples became a major source of anecdotes about the lives of the Transcendentalists.

So the calm opening section, we note, Ives connects with Bronson. Next the music grows to a series of dissonant climaxes in which the Beethoven's Fifth motive and Missionary hymn vie with each other in different keys at once. Is this Bronson's "philosophical raptures"? Or does it perhaps represent the fiery determination of Louisa May, who fought to become a famous novelist in order to raise her improvident family out of a poverty that was not always genteel? She was the fearsome one in the family, and taming her temper (in the fictional persona of Jo March) is one of the recurring themes of Little Women. In any case, the music builds to a Beethoven's Fifth-based climax, and then more quietly states the human faith melody again over a mystical, slightly dissonant accompaniment.

The succeeding middle section is in the style (with some humorous touches) of 19th-century American parlor music, its melodic tics suggesting Scottish folk songs. This is clearly the reference to Lizzy/Beth playing piano at home. Twice the melody turns to the opening phrase of the "Wedding March" from Wagner's Lohengrin - perhaps an acknowledgement, as Mark Twain remarks at the end of Tom Sawyer, that every 19th-century novel ends with a wedding.

A tense and harmonically ambiguous transition follows, gradually transforming the Scottish folk-song idiom and finally bursting into the human faith melody in all its glory, in chords large enough that they seem to be trying to transcend the limitations of the piano. Now the theme is in C major - but at the end, as it dies away, Ives slips back into B-flat for a moment before a final, exquisitely comforting C-major chord.

"Thoreau"

For another composer, the end of "The Alcotts" could easily have served as the triumphant, logical, conclusion of a piece, but for Ives, as for his hero Emerson, every answered question was merely prelude to a deeper question. To have ended unambiguously would have struck Ives as unfaithfulness to the truth of life. Ives provides us with a slightly more definite narrative for the "Thoreau" movement than for the others. "And if there shall be a program for our music," he writes, "let it follow his thought on an autumn day of Indian summer at Walden - a shadow of a thought at first, colored by the mist and haze over the pond." The delicately rising chords in two keys at once that open Thoreau certainly suggest mist and haze. As Hawthorne evokes trains, Thoreau even more plainly evokes walking. The stepwise rising figures of the introductory page introduce figures that will be used for mystical meditation toward the end.

The next section begins on an unexpectedly simple G-major chord, and this chord, which we'll hear again twice more, will initiate three walking tours that Thoreau takes around Walden Pond: first along the "white-pebbled and sandy eastern shore," then along the "bolder northern and western shores with deep bays indented," and finally "along the railroad track where the Aeolian harp plays" - the Aeolian harp probably, judging from comments in Thoreau's journals, being the elevated telegraph lines whose hum Thoreau liked to listen to by putting his ear against the post. Each of these walks crescendos and quickens before dying away, the last leading to a ringing climax like church bells.

Then the music changes, becoming more meditative. Thoreau realizes, Ives writes, "that his search for freedom on that day, at least, lies in his submission to nature." An ostinato (that is, repeating) line rises up from the bass, A C G, over and over, and will continue throughout much of the rest of the movement. Above it, in a differentand meandering key, Ives weaves an enigmatic tune beginning with the first five notes of the old minstrel song "Massa's in de Cold, Cold Ground" ("Down in the cornfield, Hear the mournful sound"), which - however difficult it may be to justify the text programmatically in this context - was his father's favorite song. The following passage grows more animated, introducing a slightly march-like dotted-rhythm motive that will grow in intensity until it finally reveals itself as related to the human faith melody - which otherwise we haven't yet heard in this movement.

The music now leads through a succession of images, some suggestive of walking, one of them (a series of soft, dissonant chords) probably what Ives refers to when he writes of "the faint sound of the Concord church bell." The music crescendos into a repetitive and dissonantly tense climax that dies away in converging chords, and then the "submission to nature" ostinato and "Massa's in de Cold, Cold Ground" return. These are interrupted by the return of some material from the first page, which grows more agitated until -

...until a flute starts playing the human faith theme, spreading calm like oil on water. The most effectively I've ever heard this performed was in a church in Austin, where the flutist was hidden in the organ loft, appearing out of nowhere like the voice of an angel. (Some pianists do play the version Ives provided without flute, which preserves the melody but alters its profile a little.) The effect is mystical, the melody played over repeating figures from the movement's introduction. And then as the flute repeats the human faith melody, the piano switches back to the "submission to nature" ostinato. At last the flute dies away, the piano continuing with the ostinato and "Massa's in de Cold, Cold Ground." The movement's opening mists return for a moment, leading to some high, delicate chords - beneath which an earlier motive brings the music to an inconclusive end in slightly dissonant ambiguity.

Conclusion

There is, of course, much more to say, and - pace Ives's reputation in certain musical circles - many elements attest, for musicians conversant in the terminology, to Ives's brilliant expertise as a composer. For instance, the whole-tone scale plus one other note is an important source chord for the entire sonata, found on most of its pages. The entire piece manifests an elegant form whereby the human faith melody appears only in the keys of C, B-flat, and A-flat in the first movement and last two movements, and on D, E, and arguably F-sharp in "Hawthorne" - all notes members of the same whole-tone scale. Many passages, especially climaxes, contrast chords on A and E-flat within a general C-minor framework. Programmatically, one could draw a parallel with Ives's Fourth Symphony, in which Emerson (with its inconclusive ending) asks the questions, Hawthorne and the Alcotts provide incomplete answers based in comedy and religiosity respectively, and Thoreau answers with a more universal mysticism.

The Concord Sonata is undoubtedly a difficult and complex work that takes time and repeated listenings to absorb. But it is grounded in simple and lyrical themes that manage to bind together all the dissonant outbursts and non-sequiturs and digressions and obsessive strivings. Over a hundred years, thousands of listeners have come to appreciate, and dozens of pianists to negotiate, its depth and unconventionally compelling form. As John Kirkpatrick wrote, it "treats its subjects in great free round shapes of music that move or plunge into each other with obvious spontaneity, and yet when one gets off at a distance and looks at it in perspective, there is no aspect of it that does not offer an ever fresh variety of interesting cross relation and beautifully significant proportion." And as composer and Ives biographer Henry Cowell once wrote, "no American hears the Concord Sonata... without a shock of recognition."

Timeline (admittedly confusing) for the Composition and Early Performance History of the Concord Sonata

Briefly, Ives wrote the Concord Sonata as it was first published between 1911 and 1919, though some sketches were apparently made as early as 1904. After the 1921 publication, there were a series of performances of individual movements in 1921-22, a larger series in 1928-29, and a few in California around 1936. Meanwhile, Ives had started revising the piece (especially "Emerson") as early as 1921, and would continue making changes into the 1940s. John Kirkpatrick gave the world premiere in 1939, and a new edition would arrive in 1947 (copies of the early edition having run out by the early 1930s). Ives's conception of the piece continued to evolve for an amazing 43 years

1904: Ives apparently sketches on an "Orchard House Overture" about the Alcotts, but only a few notes survive.

1905: Ives sketched (as he later remembered, but it doesn't survive) a slow movement for string quartet, possibly with organ and flute, about Thoreau.

1909: Ives works on a "Hawthorne Concerto," of which nothing survives.

1910-1911: Ives works extensively on an "Emerson Concerto," incomplete, but on which the "Emerson" movement will be largely based.

1911: Vacationing at "Pell's" (now Elk Lake Lodge) in the Adirondacks, Ives gets the idea for a Concord Sonata; the sketch with a flute playing the human faith melody (though not yet containing the Beethoven's Fifth motive) seems to date from this time.

1912: In a 1913 memo, Ives writes that in the previous year he played the Concord Sonata for his music critic friend Max Smith, though "Thoreau" was rather improvised.

1913: According to his Memos, Ives writes "The Alcotts" and "Thoreau," although see below.

1914, spring: Ives will much later tell John Kirkpatrick that he gave an impromptu performance of the Concord in a church this year, though Ives's wife remembered no such performance.

1915: Ives also states in his Memos that he wrote down "Thoreau" this year.

1919: Ives prepares a score of the Concord Sonata for publication, simplifying much of it (especially "Emerson") to make it look more playable.

1919-20: Ives writes a book Essays before a Sonata to be published with the sonata.

1920: The sonata is published by Schirmer at Ives's expense (Schirmer does not put their name on it); he publishes the book separately with Knickerbocker Press, again at his own expense.

1921, January: Ives sends out 200 copies of the Concord, and also copies of the book.

1921, August 3: Clifton Furness performs "The Alcotts" at Northwestern University.

1921: Novelist/poet Henry Bellamann lectures about the piece at Columbia, South Carolina, where he was Dean of Fine Arts at Chicora College for Women; pianist Lenore Purcell plays at least one movement.

1922, January 4: Bellamann again lectures, and Purcell plays movements at the Atlanta Music Club.

1924, summer: George Gershwin, newly famous for his Rhapsody in Blue, calls Ives to express his appreciation for the Concord; Ives, vacationing in Europe at the time, never returns the call.

1926: After a few years working on it, Ives finished arranging the "Emerson" movement in four pieces called Four Transcriptions from "Emerson," in some cases restoring complexities from the "Emerson Concerto" that will be added into a future edition of the Concord.

1927: Pianist and editor John Kirkpatrick discovers the Concord (through pianist Katherine "Kitty" Heyman) and begins corresponding with Ives.

1928: Heyman plays some movements at a salon in her New York apartment, possibly with Ives present; on March 5 she plays "Emerson" on a radio program from the Sorbonne.

1928, May 1: Pianist Oscar Ziegler plays "The Alcotts" at the New York Historical Society.

1928, September 19: Pianist Arthur Hardcastle plays "Emerson" at the Rudolph Schaeffer Studios, at a concert presented by the New Music Society of California.

1928, December 12: Clifton Furness plays "Thoreau" at a private concert in Hartford.

1928-29: Pianist Keith Corelli tours "Emerson" in Santa Barbara, Charleston, Spartanburg, New Orleans, Chattanooga, and Montreal.

1932: Kirkpatrick is performing "The Alcotts."

1935: Kirkpatrick plays "Emerson" at Princeton.

1936: Composer Lou Harrison asks Ives for a score, and arranges at least two performances of unknown movements in California; Kirkpatrick plays "Emerson" at Town Hall in New York.

1938: Ives arranges for a new edition of the Concord with Arrow Press, though it will take some years to complete.

1938, November 28: Kirkpatrick plays the entire sonata (from memory) at a private concert in Cos Cob.

!939, January 20: Kirkpatrick plays the public premiere at Town Hall in New York, to great critical acclaim.

1945, April 9, Kirkpatrick records the Concord Sonata for Columbia.

1947, October 7: After years of Ives making revisions, a new edition of the Concord Sonata is in print.

1948: Kirkpatrick's Columbia recording is finally released.


Kyle Gann is the author of Charles Ives's Concord: Essays after a Sonata (University of Illinois Press, 2017).