Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Classical Compositions of… the 1930s

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Music to accompany fascism's slow-ish rise.

Poll Results

OptionVotes
Béla Bartók – Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) 5
Edgard Varèse – Ionisation (1929-1931) 3
Sergei Prokofiev – Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64 (1935-1936) 3
Béla Bartók – String Quartet No. 5 (1934) 2
Béla Bartók – Piano Concerto No. 2 (1930-1931) 2
Béla Bartók – Violin Concerto No. 2 (1937-1938) 2
Sergei Rachmaninoff – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 (1934) 2
Joaquín Rodrigo – Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) 2
Edgard Varèse – Density 21.5 (1936) 1
Maurice Ravel – Piano Concerto (1929-1931) 1
Igor Stravinsky – Symphony of Psalms (1930) 1
Dmitri Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47 (1937) 1
Dmitri Shostakovich – Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Op. 43 (1935-1936) 1
George Enescu – Œdipe, Op. 23 (1910-1931) 1
Benjamin Britten – Les Illuminations, Op. 18 (1939) 1
Arnold Schoenberg – Violin Concerto, Op. 36 (1934-1936) 1
Sergei Rachmaninoff – Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 44 (1935-1936) 1
Alban Berg – Lulu (1929-1935) 1
Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings (1936) 1
Maurice Ravel – Concerto for the Left Hand (1929-1930) 0
William Walton – Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major (1934-1935) 0
Silvestre Revueltas – Sensemayá (1937-1938) 0
Manuel de Falla – Homenajes (1938-1939) 0
Olivier Messiaen – Apparition de l’église éternelle (1932) 0
Ralph Vaughan Williams – Symphony No. 4 in F minor (1935) 0
Sergei Prokofiev – Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 (1935) 0
Olivier Messiaen – Poèmes pour Mi (1936-1937) 0
Sergei Prokofiev – Symphony No. 4 in C major, Op. 47 (1929-1930) 0
Paul Hindemith – Symphony: Mathis der Maler (1933-1934) 0
Paul Hindemith – Der Schwanendreher (1935) 0
Ruth Crawford Seeger – String Quartet (1931) 0
Karol Szymanowski – Symphony No. 4, Op. 60 (1932) 0
Karl Amadeus Hartmann – Concerto funebre (1939) 0
Albert Roussel – Symphony No. 3 in G minor, Op. 42 (1929-1930) 0
Anton Webern – Variations for Piano, Op. 27 (1936) 0
Anton Webern – String Quartet, Op. 28 (1937-1938) 0
Anton Webern – Cantata No. 1, Op. 29 (1938-1939) 0
Arnold Schoenberg – String Quartet No. 4, Op. 37 (1936) 0
Béla Bartók – Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937) 0
Béla Bartók – String Quartet No. 6 (1939) 0
Benjamin Britten – Piano Concerto, Op. 13 (1938) 0
Benjamin Britten – Violin Concerto, Op. 15 (1939) 0
Carl Nielsen – Commotio (1930-1931) 0
Carl Ruggles – Sun-Treader (1926-1931) 0
Dmitri Shostakovich – Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 54 (1939) 0
Dmitri Shostakovich – Lady Macbeth of the Mstensk District, Op. 29 (1930-1932) 0
George Gershwin – Porgy and Bess (1935) 0
Igor Stravinsky – Violin Concerto in D major (1931) 0
Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji – Opus clavicembalisticum (1930) 0
Alban Berg – Violin Concerto, ’To the Memory of an Angel’ (1935) 0


romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 11:55 (two weeks ago) link

Honourable mentions:

Albert Roussel – Bacchus et Ariane, Op. 43 (1930)
Anton Webern – Concerto for Nine Instruments, Op. 24 (1934)
Carl Orff – Carmina burana (1935-1936) (lol not really)
Dmitri Shostakovich – Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35 (1933)
Dmitri Shostakovich – Cello Sonata in D minor, Op. 40 (1934)
George Enescu – Piano Sonata No. 3 in D major, Op. 24/3 (1933-1935)
George Enescu – Cello Sonata No. 2 in C major, Op. 26/2 (1935)
George Enescu – Orchestral Suite No. 3, ‘Villageoise’, Op. 27 (1937-1938)
Igor Stravinsky – Concerto in E-flat major, ‘Dumbarton Oaks’ (1938)
Paul Hindemith – Trauermusik (1936)
William Walton – Violin Concerto (1938-1939)

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 11:56 (two weeks ago) link

I could vote for any of these:

Alban Berg – Violin Concerto, ’To the Memory of an Angel’ (1935)
Anton Webern – Variations for Piano, Op. 27 (1936)
Anton Webern – Cantata No. 1, Op. 29 (1938-1939)
Béla Bartók – Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936)
Béla Bartók – Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937)
Benjamin Britten – Violin Concerto, Op. 15 (1939)
George Enescu – Œdipe, Op. 23 (1910-1931)
Maurice Ravel – Concerto for the Left Hand (1929-1930)
Maurice Ravel – Piano Concerto (1929-1931)

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 12:06 (two weeks ago) link

A decade where I don't really have that many favorites. I think I would have voted for Britten's A Boy Was Born if it was nominated, if only for personal reasons. First major work I sang. 22 years ago. Damn, I'm old :(

Frederik B, Thursday, 13 February 2020 12:32 (two weeks ago) link

Ionisation

Todd Phillips, party auteur (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 13 February 2020 12:35 (two weeks ago) link

I have a sinking feeling participation will dramatically decrease as we segue into further decades – much like concert attendance, for that matter.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 12:40 (two weeks ago) link

So much here I like in theory but don't really know as intimately as I like to think I do. I foresee a lot of re-listening this week. The ones I don't know anything whatsoever about (Sensemayá, Sun-Treader, Opus clavicembalisticum) are certainly intriguing on first sampling...

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Thursday, 13 February 2020 13:21 (two weeks ago) link

Another somewhat rushed Spotify playlist. (Which looks curiously DG-centric at present, for better or worse.)

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3hq7YcJFOObFLafnXnnF3f

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Thursday, 13 February 2020 13:31 (two weeks ago) link

Rachmaninoff’s rhapsody is a breathtaking bit of virtuosity, hard not to vote for it, but Barton’s percussion/celesta piece is nipping at its heels

ooga booga-ing for the bourgeoisie (voodoo chili), Thursday, 13 February 2020 13:35 (two weeks ago) link

*bartok, dumb phone

ooga booga-ing for the bourgeoisie (voodoo chili), Thursday, 13 February 2020 13:35 (two weeks ago) link

Thanks, Nag!

Some recording suggestions (almost 100% DG-free) in light of my pseudo-shortlist:

Alban Berg – Violin Concerto, ’To the Memory of an Angel’ (1935) – Isabelle Faust, Orchestra Mozart, Claudio Abbado
Anton Webern – Variations for Piano, Op. 27 (1936) – Ingrid Karlen
Anton Webern – Cantata No. 1, Op. 29 (1938-1939) – Christiane Oelze, Anton Webern Choir Freiburg, Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Michael Gielen
Béla Bartók – Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) – Budapest Festival Orchestra, Iván Fischer
Béla Bartók – Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937) – Zoltán Kocsis, Dezső Ránki, Gusztáv Cser & Zoltán Rácz
Benjamin Britten – Violin Concerto, Op. 15 (1939) – Mark Lubotsky, English Chamber Orchestra, Benjamin Britten
George Enescu – Œdipe, Op. 23 (1910-1931) – José van Dam, Barbara Hendricks, Brigitte Fassbaender, Marjana Lipovšek, Orfeón Donostiarra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Lawrence Foster
Maurice Ravel – Concerto for the Left Hand (1929-1930) – Pierre-Laurent Aimard, The Cleveland Orchestra, Pierre Boulez
Maurice Ravel – Piano Concerto (1929-1931) – Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Philharmonia Orchestra, Ettore Gracis

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 13:45 (two weeks ago) link

no love for henry cowell?

ogmor, Thursday, 13 February 2020 14:20 (two weeks ago) link

Not the first American composer to get shafted in this poll, and certainly not the last…

Half-kidding aside, I'm not familiar with his work at all. His later symphonies – for which there may still be room in the coming of decades – seem to have found critical favour. Any recommendations?

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 14:27 (two weeks ago) link

bartok violin concerto 2, without a second thought

you know my name, look up the number of the beast (rushomancy), Thursday, 13 February 2020 14:38 (two weeks ago) link

shafted in this poll

Hmm, having just read his Wikipedia page, that was an unintentionally poor choice of words.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 14:40 (two weeks ago) link

in the coming of decades

ffs I got enough sleep last night and had my early morning coffee. Take it away, Sigmund.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 14:46 (two weeks ago) link

I only know the piano tone cluster stuff which I've always found kind of gorgeous. looking at composition dates and trying to remember titles: deep colour is 30s, hero sun is great too but that's 20s. will probably vote bartok string quartet no 5 bc these glorious threads have sent me on a massive bartok string quartet binge and I feel guilty for not voting for no 4 last time. have to thank you for these pom, something about going through decade by decade has really opened things up for me, you're doing the lord's work.

ogmor, Thursday, 13 February 2020 15:31 (two weeks ago) link

My pleasure, ogmor, and apologies for the inevitable (and evitable) omissions. I will seek out Cowell's piano works and check out his symphonies afterwards.

As a side note, I may slow down the pace (a poll every two weeks) after the 1950s. With population growth, greater ease of access to music education, globalization and a much-needed critique of canonicity comes a surfeit of composers to explore. It goes without saying that justice will not be done to this state of affairs, which has only become more disorienting over the past few decades, but I don't want these lists to be purely subjective either (fear not, Cage fans, I won't let you down… I may need a bit of prodding for Copland and Bernstein, though).

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 15:46 (two weeks ago) link

Ha, I was just about to say that I would have voted for First Construction in Metal if it were here. (Second, maybe Webern's Concerto for Nine Instruments, ha.)

With considerable charm, you still have made a choice (Sund4r), Thursday, 13 February 2020 15:54 (two weeks ago) link

just realized i already know what im gonna vote for in the 40s and 50s lol

ooga booga-ing for the bourgeoisie (voodoo chili), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:00 (two weeks ago) link

ah man this decade is my shit

american bradass (BradNelson), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:01 (two weeks ago) link

Sund4r, I can throw in the four Construction pieces as a bundle next week.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:01 (two weeks ago) link

my choice will be very personal bc i've spent the most time with it for ludicrous reasons: berg's lulu

american bradass (BradNelson), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:02 (two weeks ago) link

It is a pretty good decade, yeah, especially if you love violin concertos (I do).

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:02 (two weeks ago) link

And Lulu is an unfuckwithable pick, obviously.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:03 (two weeks ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLuLsFjnCjI

this is only the first half of the 1996 glyndebourne production of lulu but it's phenomenal

american bradass (BradNelson), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:05 (two weeks ago) link

Voted Bartok 4 in the last one, voting Bartok 5 in this one. Strong contenders for the best music ever written.

ascai, Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:05 (two weeks ago) link

This decade is sort of a letdown after the 20s for me tbh.

With considerable charm, you still have made a choice (Sund4r), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:06 (two weeks ago) link

As an addendum, here is Barbara Hannigan singing AND conducting the Lulu Suite:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XatVOukxxtE

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:07 (two weeks ago) link

Ionisation

― Todd Phillips, party auteur (Noodle Vague), Thursday, February 13, 2020 7:35 AM (three hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

The Mandymoorian (Whiney G. Weingarten), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:26 (two weeks ago) link

Great decade, and also I forgot that some of these compositions were as late as the 1930s.

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:30 (two weeks ago) link

I just can't imagine preferring Ionisation to, say, Berg's Violin Concerto or – if percussion is your jam – Bartók's aforementioned Sonata or, like, Shostakovich's 4th Symphony with that sweet coda appended to the Scherzo that he would later reuse in the 2nd Cello Concerto and the 15th Symphony.

Care to expand, Varèsians?

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:33 (two weeks ago) link

I'm seeing Hannigan doing that in a couple of months, I think :)

Frederik B, Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:38 (two weeks ago) link

Curse you! Copenhagen seems like a pretty sweet place to live when you're a classical fan, especially if you've got tastes along the lines of mine.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:40 (two weeks ago) link

Dunno... I don't feel like I'm that good at taking advantage of it, then. Especially since both my parents works/have worked with classical music, and still get a lot of free tickets to stuff.

Frederik B, Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:42 (two weeks ago) link

Agree with sund4r that this decade is a bit of a step down after the 20s but... fucking bartok. He owns this one, that there is as good a decade as any composer has ever had. So hard to choose between MSPC, the 2 piano sonata, quartet 5 and pno cto 2!

Credible challenges from RVW 4th (his moment of all out rage) and Walton 1st (by far the best thing I’ve ever heard by this composer and one of the all time great debut symphonies) and Oedipe which should be heard by anyone who loves the succulent pelleas vybe

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:51 (two weeks ago) link

And Bartok violin cto 2! It’s a five way bela for first.

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:52 (two weeks ago) link

Hear, hear. Walton's Viola Concerto is worth hearing as well, but I haven't found as much to love in the rest of his output, I'm afraid.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 16:53 (two weeks ago) link

i adore the ravel piano concerto, just gonna lock that one in and not overthink it

ciderpress, Thursday, 13 February 2020 18:16 (two weeks ago) link

Listening to that Smithsonian Folkways disc of Cowell's piano music right now and it is indeed quite remarkable. Some of these pieces are downright Bartókian – not quite what I expected.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 13 February 2020 18:31 (two weeks ago) link

oh dang the walton symphony is definitely my type of thing

ciderpress, Thursday, 13 February 2020 19:39 (two weeks ago) link

^ ditto.

It's a fine decade. I feel like can dip into that playlist* pretty much anywhere and dig it. For whatever reason, I couldn't really say that a few decades earlier. Broader familiarity is probably a factor but things I've not knowingly heard before (eg. the Britten concertos I'm listening to right now) are also effortlessly attractive. Presumably composers were using something closer to the Language Of Our Own Time, or something. :)

* thanks for those recommendations, pomenitul. I immediately switched over to those where necessary, all those days ago.

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Monday, 17 February 2020 02:21 (one week ago) link

Went with rhapsody on a theme from Paganini

ooga booga-ing for the bourgeoisie (voodoo chili), Monday, 17 February 2020 02:44 (one week ago) link

All in all, the Berg concerto would be my POO, but it's bound to get at least a couple of votes (at least I hope so), which is I'm tempted to go with yet another underdog.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Monday, 17 February 2020 09:33 (one week ago) link

pvmic I'm giving my vote to Britten's Illuminations, though it could've been Berg, Bartók's Piano Concerto or any of the Varèse's. (and I haven't yet heard this Enescu, a new discovery for me thanks to these polls.

Le Bateau Ivre, Monday, 17 February 2020 09:57 (one week ago) link

My preferred variations on Paganini are from Lutosławski

🚶‍♂️💨 (Eric H.), Monday, 17 February 2020 14:04 (one week ago) link

(Which I'd like to see on the next decade's shortlist btw.)

🚶‍♂️💨 (Eric H.), Monday, 17 February 2020 14:05 (one week ago) link

Noted.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Monday, 17 February 2020 14:16 (one week ago) link

Villa-Lobos - Cinq préludes and obv Cage - Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano too, plz.

With considerable charm, you still have made a choice (Sund4r), Monday, 17 February 2020 18:40 (one week ago) link

Already on the list (I love those Villa-Lobos Preludes btw, and the Sonatas and Interludes are among the Cage works I appreciate the most).

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Monday, 17 February 2020 18:42 (one week ago) link

Lulu or Ionisation.

Post Cowell talk -- and this could be tough -- but hopefully a Nancarrow player piano piece can be included.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:01 (one week ago) link

The coming decades will include some Nancarrow, yeah.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 09:27 (one week ago) link

the 1940s includes some ridiculously heavy hitters from Messiaen, Shostakovich and Britten, plus final testaments of Strauss and Bartok, entree Cage, a bunch of american modernisms, yikes

A few 40s faves I'd like you to consider:

--some Jolivet, maybe Danses Rituelles?
--Martinu #4 or #5
--Koechlin's huge orchestral masterpieces come in this decade (Offrandre Bach, Docteur Fabricius, Buisson Ardent) - pls include at least one!
--RVW #6 and #7 (or instead of #7, the Scott of the Antarctic film score)
--Bachianas Brasilieras 7 or 8 (the huge crazy ones)
--Herrmann: either Citizen Kane or The Ghost & Mrs Muir or both
--Waxman: Rebecca film score
--Miklos Rozsa: The Lost Weekend film score

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 18:18 (one week ago) link

Martinů #4, RVW #5 & #6 for sure (#7 was completed in 1952). Some Kœchlin would definitely be nice. I don't think there will be room for the others but I'll do my best.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 18:22 (one week ago) link

Are you taking a ‘no music for films’ stance in order to make your job easier? (If so I understand)

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 18:39 (one week ago) link

I think it's wiser, especially since it's not a realm I know much about in the first place (I'm not much of a film guy in general).

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 18:42 (one week ago) link

Someone should totally do a soundtrack/film music poll, though.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 18:43 (one week ago) link

That’d be me I guess
I think we MIGHTve done one for horror scores?

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 18:50 (one week ago) link

I think we just have a thread for it, not a poll.

🚶‍♂️💨 (Eric H.), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 18:53 (one week ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Wednesday, 19 February 2020 00:01 (one week ago) link

MSPC

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Wednesday, 19 February 2020 03:13 (one week ago) link

I couldn't front in the end. Rodrigo's Spanish slab of schlock is the one of these I've listened to the most.

With considerable charm, you still have made a choice (Sund4r), Wednesday, 19 February 2020 21:16 (one week ago) link

Some of the most enjoyable schlock there is tbf. I wouldn't have included it otherwise.

Surprised no one nailed 95 theses about how my deliberate omission of Carmina burana is proof positive that this poll series is an exercice in elitist corruption.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Wednesday, 19 February 2020 21:23 (one week ago) link

We all knew that from the very first poll though 😉

(I will say that my tour de force performance on the timpani during the West Sussex youth symphonic wind band’s performance of CB back in the day is the stuff of legend)

Jeff W, Wednesday, 19 February 2020 23:13 (one week ago) link

Probably more like I just didn’t remember what decade CB came out in.

🚶‍♂️💨 (Eric H.), Wednesday, 19 February 2020 23:15 (one week ago) link

As a young child CB was etched into my brain as "the theme from Old Spice" so I could never take it seriously even before the nazi shit. It's probably objectively good tho, or at least Magma wouldn't have existed without it.

babby bitter (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 19 February 2020 23:17 (one week ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rbZr7YoqK0

God bless the internet

babby bitter (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 19 February 2020 23:19 (one week ago) link

i sang in CB as a teenager, this is the passage i remember most clearly: "trilirivos trilirivos trilirivos"

a translation page says this word "defies analysis"

mark s, Wednesday, 19 February 2020 23:24 (one week ago) link

It's crypto-fascist Latin iirc.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Wednesday, 19 February 2020 23:27 (one week ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Thursday, 20 February 2020 00:01 (one week ago) link

Not a single vote for the Berg Concerto? Madness! And I allowed it to happen!

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 20 February 2020 00:02 (one week ago) link

It was on my shortlist.

With considerable charm, you still have made a choice (Sund4r), Thursday, 20 February 2020 00:23 (one week ago) link

I keep favouring things I've previously underrated instead. The Schoenberg, I think, in this case. I enjoyed getting (better) acquainted with the Revueltas, Falla, Szymanowski, Crawford Seeger and Britten as well. I suspect I spent more time listening to this 50 than any other!

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Thursday, 20 February 2020 00:30 (one week ago) link

I’m on the winning team for once!

No Magma without carmina burana means no Magma without les noces...

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Thursday, 20 February 2020 00:39 (one week ago) link

A worthy winner, to be sure.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 20 February 2020 09:13 (one week ago) link

Per aspera ad astra:

Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Classical Compositions of… the 1940s

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Thursday, 20 February 2020 10:44 (one week ago) link


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