Charles E. Ives - Symphony No. 2, Critical Edition - Order Here

Charles E. Ives

The opening line of Charles Ives’s song “The Things Our Fathers Loved” is: “I think there must be a place in the soul all made of tunes of long ago.”  Symphony No. 2, which famously concludes with "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," is "all made of tunes" from Ives's childhood. What follows is a brief tour of the tunes themselves and their “symphonic metamorphoses” in Symphony No. 2.

This presentation was inspired by a section in J. Peter Burkholder’s “All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowing,” where much more detail is provided. The text of Jonathan Elkus's critical edition of Symphony No. 2 also provides useful background on the tunes, and contains insights on the overall design of the five-movement work and the work's gestation from its beginnings in 1907 until its first publication in 1951.

 

  Movement I -- Andante moderato

The opening movement serves as an introduction to the Allegro that follows, much as the fourth movement introduces the Finale.

Burkholder shows that Ives originally planned his first theme as a paraphrase of the hymn tune "Nettleton." Later, Ives used the same compositoinal techniques on Stephen Foster’s “Massa’s in de Cold Ground.” Example 1 shows how Ives re-ordered the phrases from Foster's tune to create his opening theme.

Audio Example 1
a) Verse and chorus of “Massa’s in de Cold Ground”
b) Phrases of “Massa’s in de Cold Ground” as Ives orders them in the symphony.
c) Mvt. I: first theme and transition to second theme.


The second theme paraphrases the fiddle tune “Pig Town Fling”(or “Warm Stuff”). Burkholder writes: 

“The sources for the first and second themes share a similar intervallic contour.  In addition, the second theme shares with the preceding transitional motive a rhythm of an eighth and two sixteenths…. These links…illustrate Ives’s preference for themes that are melodically related and suggest his ability to turn one idea into another through progressive variation.  Both are typical of 19th century music in the tradition of Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, and Brahms.”

Audio Example 2
a) “Pigtown Fling”
b) Second theme (m. 23-36)

At m. 66, Ives introduces ?Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean? as a countermelody in the horns and cellos.

Audio Example 3
a) "The Red, White and Blue,” aka “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean
b) Mvt. 1, mm. 66-68
  Movement II -- Allegro molto (con spirito)

Jonathan Elkus describes this movement as a "parade of paraphrases." It begins with a treatment of Henry Clay Work's Civil War song "Wake Nicodemus." Jonathan Elkus talks about the abolitionist message in this song -- an important one to the composer, whose father served in the Union Army. About Ives's use of Wake Nicodemus, Burkholder writes:

“In immediately developing material he has just introduced, Ives follows the example of Beethoven and Brahms.  At the same time he lays out his first theme area (mm. 1-41) in an AA’BA’ format, corresponding to the AABA structure of the verse of Work’s song.”

Audio Example 4
a) "Wake Nicodemus"
b) Mvt. II, first theme

The transitional theme at m. 42 paraphrases George A. Minor's "Bringing in the Sheaves". Burkholder:

"As is usually the case with Ives, the paraphrase continues beyond the point where the derivation is obvious. Like the second theme of the first movement, this theme is motivically anticipated… ‘Bringing in the Sheaves’ shares several motives with the first theme.  Similarly, the latter part of this theme refers back to ‘Wake Nicodemus’”.

Audio Example 5
a) “Bringing in the Sheaves”
b)  Mvt. II, m. 42

The transitional theme at m. 42 paraphrases George A. Minor's "Bringing in the Sheaves". Burkholder:

The second theme (m. 72) derives from the college song "Where, O Where Are the Verdant Freshmen?", which was adapted from the hymn tune ‘The Hebrew Children’ by David Walker.  The theme’s middle section (mm. 88-89) is based on the same tune, with the second half transposed down a fourth" to prepare the repeat of the first section.

Audio Example 6
a.) “Where, O Where are the Verdant Freshmen?”
b.) “Movement II (second theme)”

 

Movement II, Development (mm. 137).  Burkholder writes:

“The trombones play a cantus firmus alternating phrases from two hymn tunes: the first and third phrases of Hamburg (mm. 137 and 153) and the second and fourth phrases of Naomi (mm. 146 and 161). The two hymn tunes are similar in structure and character, sharing a basic long-short-short rhythm, and both were arranged by Lowell Mason from existing tunes....

In the coda, the first cantus firmus phrase returns at m. 329, now in counterpoint  with the second theme ["Where O Where are the Verdant Freshmen?"].  This leads to the climactic simultaneous presentation of both themes (mm. 342-346) … over a variant of the cantus firmus’s first phrase.”  

Audio Example 7
a.) “Hamburg”
b.) “Naomi”
c.)  Ives’s Hamburg / Naomi hybrid, m. 137
d.) The coda (starting at m. 329)
  Movement III -- Adagio cantabile

Elkus sees this movement as a "meditative interlude" between two introduction-and-allegro overtures.

The main theme is based primarily on “Beulah Land”.  Burkholder:  

“[its] distinctive rhythm, a dotted figure on the downbeat, is present from the start… Embedded in this interpolation is another.  In both theme and coda, mm. 17-18  of ‘Beulah Land’ are replaced by a variant of mm. 13-14 of ‘Materna’ by Samuel A. Ward [aka “America the Beautiful”]…“this tune was usually sung in Ives’s day to the words “O Mother dear, Jerusalem.”

Audio Example 8
a.) “Beulah Land,” with phrases re-ordered to match Ives’s treatment
b.) “Materna”
c.)  Mvt. III, main theme, at coda (m. 107)
  Movement IV -- Lento maestoso
 

 

This movement presents a condensed restatement of the themes in Movement I.  For an interesting thesis on the overall form of the symphony, see Jonathan Elkus’s remarks in the Preface of our edition.

 

  Movement V -- Allegro molto vivace

Burkholder describes an “intricate web” of melodies and countermelodies in the Finale, structured by three chains of linked motives.

The first chain of motives is based on Foster's "De Camptown Races”. The tune is first clearly heard in the horns in mm. 14-15, and recurs in low strings in m. 31; flute at m. 33; and repeats several times in low strings and bassoons starting at m. 35, while the first trombone states the whole chorus, somewhat altered.  But the opening theme is actually a “disguised but complete paraphrase” of “Camptown.”  Burkholder observes that the first theme took shape late in the compositional process, after Ives had been tinkering with “Camptown” as a countermelody to “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” which he knew he wanted for the end of the movement.

Audio Example 9
a) "De Camptown Races"
b) Mvt. V, mm. 1-39 

The motives in the second chain are all linked by the eighth-2 sixteenth note rhythmic cell from mvt. 1 -- developing first into a fife tune for flutes and piccolo (mm. 27-29), then into countermelodies to “De Camptown Races” (mm. 31-42), "Turkey in the Straw" (violins, off the beat, m. 41), and “Pig Town Fling” (m. 52, transition to the 2nd theme).

Audio Example 10
a) "Turkey in the Straw"
b) "Pig Town Fling"
c)  Mvt. V, m. 37-5x

The 3rd chain of motives begins with the second theme, “a stately horn melody in ABA form” at Meno allegro, m. 58, whose first phrase resembles the opening of Foster's "Old Black Joe"; the second phrase paraphrases “Massa’s in de Cold Ground,” as used in the first and third movements. The last four notes (mm. 69-70) are transformed into motives that suggest "Joy to the World" (“Antioch,” adapted from Handel by Lowell Mason) and "Massa's in de Cold Ground."  The eighth-2 sixteenth secondary idea at m. 70 in flute and oboe is based on “Long, Long Ago.”

Audio Example 11
a) "Old Black Joe"
b) "Massa’s in de Cold Ground"
c) "Long, Long Ago"
d) Mvt. V mm. 58-80

In the recapitulation “the entire symphony is summed up” -- complete with the bugle call “Reveille” -- “just before the triumphant entrance of ‘Columbia’ and its entourage.”  See also Jonathan Elkus’s description of the events in the recap.

Audio Example 12
Mvt. V mm. 228-end

 

Credits

Performers on the recordings:

Paul Berry, tenor
Alexis Zingale, keyboard
Paul Woodiel, fiddle

The Yale Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Sinclair

All used by pernmission.

 

Our thanks to Yale University Press for the use of excerpts from "All Made of Tunes" by J. Peter Burkholder.