Friday, April 06, 2018

Classical music of the past 100 years [4] 1948-1957

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.
  • 1948 Cage - Sonatas and interludes for prepared piano
  • 1949 Finzi - Clarinet concerto
  • 1950 Arnold - English dances
  • 1951 Carter - String quartet 1
  • 1952 Vaughan Williams - Symphony 7 'Antartica'
  • 1953 Stravinsky - Septet
  • 1954 Alwyn - Harp concerto 'Lyra angelica'
  • 1955 Martinu - The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • 1956 Piston - Serenata for Orchestra
  • 1957 Tchaikovsky, B - Clarinet concerto
In this fourth helping, we have quite a mix. Igor Stravinsky is often promoted as the best composer of the 20th century (not true imho), and I have selected a less well-known work, the interesting Septet. Ralph Vaughan Williams is another big name - his 7th symphony draws upon his soundtrack work for the movie Scott of the Antarctic. John Cage is one of the most unfairly maligned 20th century composers, ridiculed for just one piece (4'33) by people who never even heard any of his other works. Especially his compositions for prepared piano are outstanding. Bohuslav Martinu is one of the most renowned Czech composers after Dvorak, and his Gilgamesh oratorio is generally seen as his masterpiece. One of many interesting American 20th century composers, Walter Piston is included with his fine Serenata and his compatriot Carter with his first string quartet. Englishman Malcolm Arnold deserves a place for one of his beautiful sets of dances. Staying in the UK, we have two of the most impressive concertos from that country, by Gerald Finzi and William Alwyn. Finally, there's an interesting clarinet concerto by Russian composer Tschaikowsky. No, not that one, but Boris (no relative).

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