Monday, January 15, 2018

Classical music of the past 100 years [1] 1918-1927

Too many listeners of classical music think that over the past 100 years or so, nothing worthwhile has been composed. In this recurring series, I will be posting one composition per year from 1918 until 2017, with every selected composer featuring only once (and not necessarily with their imo best work). I'm aiming for composers who represent the more modern age, skipping many famous names from before 1918 who also composed in this time slot (such as Sibelius and Richard Strauss). Overall I wanted to get a reasonable mix of symphonies, concertos, other orchestral works, chamber music, solo instrumental compositions, and vocal creations, but excluding opera altogether. I have grouped the works per period of ten years, with one post per month for each subsequent decade. Youtube links are not included as they tend to disappear with time - they are easily googled anyway. If you like classical music, but are reluctant to explore the 20th and 21st century works, this series of posts might give you a bit of a nudge to start listening.

1918 Langgaard - Music of the Spheres
1919 Milhaud - Le boeuf sur le toit
1920 Hába - String quartet 2
1921 Varese - Americas
1922 Warlock - The curlew
1923 Honegger - Pacific 231
1924 Respighi - Pines of Rome
1925 Roussel - Serenade for flute, string trio, and harp
1926 Jongen - Symphonie concertante
1927 Mosolov - Iron foundry

A nice mixture to start, with some works you probably know or at least have heard of (the symphonic poems by Honegger and Respighi, the modernist ballet by Milhaud). The others are well worth exploring too. Langgaard's innovative masterpiece is a tour de force, requiring an orchestra, choir, organ, a "distant" orchestra, and a soprano soloist. Hába's string quartet is an early example of his modern microtonal music. Varèse's work adds 11 percussionists and sirens to a typical large romantic orchestra. Warlock's enchanting song cycle with chamber music accompaniment is a personal favourite of mine. The Roussel chamber music piece is typical French elegance. In contrast, the two final pieces will blow you away. Jongen's work for organ and orchestra rivals Saint-Saens' third symphony for the most impressive composition which combines these two elements, and Mosolov's piece is the prime example of Soviet futurist music.

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