There are very few composers of whom it can be said that they gave the world not just a new music, but a new kind of music – a phenomenon whose existence would have been impossible to predict on the evidence of what had come before. Step forward Charles Edward Ives – bandmaster’s son from Connecticut, gifted athlete and sportsman, Yale University graduate, and New York insurance agent. The American nation in the late 19th century had not yet built-up a classical music tradition it could call its own. American concert halls and the repertory performed there were dominated by European example. So were American composers such as Edward MacDowell and Ives’ main teacher, Horatio Parker.

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