Charles Ives wrote his second piano sonata in the years surrounding World War I, but it was not performed publicly until years later, in 1939.
This was a common fate for the music of Ives, who often wrote "for the drawer"-that is, to fulfill his musical curiosity with little hope for publishing or performance.
In this sonata, Ives summed up his attachment to American Transcendentalism, with each section inspired by a literary light of this philosophical movement. Ives went so far as to write an entire book to accompany the sonata.
This work, Essays before a Sonata, explains much about his musical beliefs. The movement we just heard was inspired by the writings of Henry David Thoreau, especially his philosophical memoir "Walden."