About Charles Ives
Charles Edward Ives (October 20, 1874 – May 19, 1954) was an American modernist composer with an estimated net worth of $1 million. Charles Ives’ father, George Ives, was a U.S. Army band leader during the American Civil War. George Ives was an accomplished musician, receiving training in flute, cornet, violin, and piano. He taught private lessons and performed in many traveling shows. Charles’ mother, “Mollie” Elizabeth Parmalee, gave birth to Charles on October 20, 1875, and J. Moss a year later. George and Mollie wed on January 1, 1874.
Born: October 20, 1874 – Danbury, CT Death: May 19, 1954 – New York, NY
Ives Quick Facts:
- Although Ives received formal training in classical music, because he worked full time in the insurance business, his music was considered by many to be ‘amateur’.
- In 1927, according to his wife, Harmony, Charles came down the stairs with tears in his eyes saying he couldn’t compose anymore – nothing sounded right. (This also happened to Jean Sibelius. It still remains a mystery to musicologists as to why it happens.)
- It wasn’t until Ives death that his music became widely popular.
Childhood and Teen Years
Greatly influenced by his father, Ives quickly took an interest in music at a young age. He studied piano and organ from a handful of teachers. Ives also received informal lessons from his father, as Charles would sing in one key while his father played the accompaniment in another. When Charles was 14, he became a church organist, making him the youngest salaried church organist in the state. In 1894, after Ives began studying at Yale, his father died suddenly from a heart attack.
Early Adult Years
When Ives entered Yale, he was a virtuoso in piano and organ. However, because of his involvement in the protestant church and American folk music taught by his father, Ives had little knowledge of classical music. While studying with Horatio Parker, he was encouraged to learn styles of music by imitation (like his father), which can be heard in Ives’ Symphony No. 1. Ives also studied Greek, Latin, French, German, literature, mathmatics, and political science.
Mid Adult Years
After graduating in 1898, Ives chose a career path in insurance. His first job was at the Mutual Life Insurance Co. in New York City. After working at one other insurance company, Ives started his own, Ives & Myrick, which became highly successful. In his spare time, he still composed and played organ in Danbury, NYC, New Haven, and Bloomfield. Ives married Harmony Twitchell in 1908. After marrying, he quit playing organ on the weekends (which allowed even more time for composition).
Late Adult Years
In the late 1920’s, Charels Ives suffered from a string of heart attacks. Unfortunately, this triggered the end of his composing. However, he would still rework and refine his previous compositions. Ives retired from insurance in 1930, and devoted his time to music. He attended several overseas premiers of his works. He continued to rework his pieces. Ives was diagnosed with diabetes and later died from a stroke. At the time of his death in 1954, Charles Ives’s net worth was $1 million.
Harmony donated his manuscripts to the Yale library.
Selected Works by Charles Ives
Because Ives reworked and refined so many of his pieces, the actual dates they were composed is somewhat a mystery. It is also believed that Ives dated many of his works inaccurately on purpose.
- Symphony No. 1 – 1898-1901, 1907-08
- Symphony No. 2 – 1899-1902, 1907-09
- Symphony No. 3 (The Camp Meeting) – 1904, 1908-11
- Symphony No. 4 – 1912-18, 1921-25
- Symphony No. 5 (New England Holidays) – 1917-19
- Emerson Overture for Piano and Orchestra – 1910-14, 1920-21
- Overture and March ‘1776’ – 1903-04, 1909-10
- Overture in g minor – 1899
- Robert Browning Overture – 1912-14, 1936-42
- Psalm 14 – 1902, 1912-13
- Psalm 24 – 1901, 1912-13
- Psalm 25 – 1901, 1912-13
- Psalm 42 – 1891-92
- Psalm 54 – 1902
- Psalm 67 – 1898-99
- Psalm 90 – 1923-24
- Psalm 100 – 1902
- Psalm 135 – 1902, 1912-13
- Psalm 150 – 1898-99