Sunday, February 11, 2018

Classical music of the past 100 years [2] 1928-1937

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.

1928 Nielsen - Clarinet concerto
1929 Bax - Symphony 3
1930 Ravel - Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major
1931 Avshalomov - Hutongs of Peking
1932 Bliss - Clarinet quintet
1933 Schmidt - Symphony 4 in C major
1934 Hindemith - Mathis der Maler Symphony
1935 Berg - Violin concerto
1936 Ireland - London overture
1937 Bartok - Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion

In this second helping, we find a mix of famous names, and almost unknowns. Ravel and Bartok are the most prominent composers here, with Hindemith, Nielsen and Berg not far behind. The selected works for this quintet of composers are among the acknowledged masterpieces of the century: three of the most stunning concertos, a beautiful symphony based on the opera of the same name, and a chamber music piece unlike any other. With respect to the other five: the reputation of Bax is not as solid as it should be. For me, he is one of the best composers of the 20th century - his third symphony is as good a starting point to explore his work as any. Bliss and Ireland are two British composers worth hearing as well. The selected works may not be their most famous (that would probably be the Colour symphony and the Piano concerto, respectively), but they make a good introduction. Schmidt was a late romantic Austrian composer, especially noted for his four symphonies. Finally we have Avshalomov, a Russian composer who lived a large part of his life in China, and it shows in his unique music.

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