Variations on "America"

From Wind Repertory Project
Charles Ives

Charles Ives (orch. William Schuman; trans. William E Rhoads)

General Info

Year: 1891 / 1968
Duration: c. 6:45
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Organ
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Cost: Score and Parts - $150.00   |   Full Score Only - $25.00   |   Condensed Score Only - $10.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornets or Trumpets I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombones I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Castanets
  • Glockenspiel (2 players)
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle
  • Xylophone (2 players)


An extensive list of errata appears in the Barry Kopetz article in The Instrumentalist (Kopetz, Barry E. "Charles Ives's Variations on 'America'." The Instrumentalist 45, no. 9 (April 1991): 20-28, 75-79.)

Additional errata and corrections to the Kopetz list:

  • Flute I, reh D, –2, beat 2 (meas. 24): add “p”
  • Flute I, reh D, –1 (meas. 25): add “all”
  • Oboe I, reh. 1, –1: add hairpin crescendo from beat 2 through beat 3 [Note: Koptez incorrectly begins the hairpin on beat 1]
  • Oboe II, reh. F, –2 (meas. 31): continue hairpin crescendo to forte (meas. 32) [Note: ignore correction on Kopetz list for meas. 133]
  • E-flat Soprano Clarinet: Ignore 1at Kopetz correction
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet I, reh. H, + 3, beat 2 (upper voice): add courtesy natural sign to E
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet III, reh. F, –1, beat 2 (meas. 32): add fermata
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet III, (Correction to Kopetz list) Reh. R, – 1 (meas. 177): crescendo should be under beats 2–3 only, not entire measure
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet III,reh. S, + 4, beat 2 (meas. 185), last 16th: add a natural sign to the A to cancel the sharp in beat 1
  • Bassoon I, reh. C, – 2 (meas. 15): identify cue as “B Cl.” (bass clarinet)
  • Bassoon I, reh. I (meas. 75). Add four flats to make a D-flat major key signature
  • Bassoon I, reh. L (meas. 114): Var. III s/r Var. IV
  • B-flat Cornet II & Trumpet II, reh. E (meas. 29): 3 meas. rest s/r 2 meas. rest Note: All instructions in Kopetz list for Cornet 2 apply to Cornet 3; Only the first correction applies to Cornet 2; the final instruction (staccato markings) is not reflected in the score.
  • B-flat Cornet III & Trumpet III, reh. D (meas. 25): add “f” dynamic marking
  • B-flat Cornet III & Trumpet III, reh. L, +1–2 (meas. 114–115): add staccato dots under each note [This is incorrectly identified as a 2nd Cornet correction in the Kopetz list]
  • Trombone I, reh. I, –2 (meas. 73): Kopetz list incorrectly indicates meas. 74, not 73
  • String Bass, reh. S, + 8, beats 1–2: eighth notes s/r sixteenth notes [Corrected in later printing]

Program Notes

This remarkable set, composed when he was about 18, Ives later described as "but a boy's work, partly serious and partly in fun." These variations serve, however, as perhaps the most comprehensive illustration of Ives's youthful sweep of style.

After a snappy figural variation, we hear a sinuous barbershop setting, a jaunty European cavalry march, a "midway" polonaise, and a scherzo. As importantly, the set shows his already prodigious ability as a soloist: note, for instance, the pedal passages in the requisitely virtuosic finale, in which is heard too the telltale cross-rhythm of the new ragtime.

- Program Note by Jonathan Elkus

Variations on "America" was originally a composition for organ. Composed in 1891 when Ives was seventeen, it is an arrangement of a traditional tune, known as My Country, 'Tis of Thee, and was at the time the de facto anthem of the United States. The tune is also widely recognized in Thomas Arne's orchestration as the British National Anthem, God Save the Queen, and in the former anthems of Russia, Switzerland, and Germany, as well as being the current national anthem of Liechtenstein and royal anthem of Norway.

The variations are a witty, irreverent piece for organ, probably typical of a “silly” teenage phenom like Ives. According to his biographers, the piece was played by Ives in organ recitals in Danbury and Brewster, New York, during the same year. At the Brewster concert, his father would not let him play the pages which included canons in two or three keys at once, because they were “unsuitable for church performance – They upset the elderly ladies and made the little boys laugh and get noisy!”

This work was transcribed for orchestra in 1964 by William Schuman and for band in 1968 by William Rhodes.

- Program Note by composer


State Ratings

  • Florida: VI --- (The Florida Bandmasters Association denotes this as "significant literature.")
  • Minnesota: Category I
  • New York: VI
  • North Carolina: VI
  • South Carolina: VI


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Works for Winds by This Composer