Saturday, November 10, 2007

1910 – 1930 Stravinsky and Schoenberg


1915-18     World War I
1917         Russian Revolution
1918         Jazz heard in Paris
1920         Les Six (Tailleferro, Durey, Auric, Milhaud, Honneger, Poulenc, sponsor Cocteau)
1924         Stalin to power in Russia


This generation must be divided into two parts:


(1) the first decade of experimentation, including the atonal phase of expressionism and Stravinsky's early successes, and


(2) the second decade in which order was re-emphasized in the twelve-tone system of Schoenberg and the neo-classicism of Stravinsky.





The Ballet Russe (1909-29) of Sergei Diaghilev opened in Paris with Dances from Prince Igor by Borodin and quickly became an important showcase for all types of modern music, especially works by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). In his Le Sacred du printemps (1913) rhythm, emphasized with dissonant polychords, replaced modulation as the primary means of musical expression. Other early ballets by Stravinsky were Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and L'Histoire du Soldat (1918). Satie's shockingly commonplace Parade (1917) provided a memorable scandal.




Charles Ives (1874-1954) composing in America experimented with polytonality, atonality and polyrhythm in his A Symphony: Holidays (1913) and Three Places in New England (1914). He published his 114 Songs in 1922, lumping together experimental and conservative pieces. He stopped composing in the early 1920's.




A new percussive use of the piano was heard in Bela Bartok's (1881-1945) complex, driving rhythms and dissonant polychords of Allegro barbaro (1911). Tone clusters, played by the forearm, were introduced in 1912 by Henry Cowell (1897-1965). Ives used a board in his Concord Sonata (1915); he tuned two pianos a quarter-tone apart in 1923.


Expressionist atonal phase


The atonal phase of expressionism lasted from c. 1907 to 1922. In an attempt to reach the extremes of emotional expression, c. 1907 Schoenberg in Vienna began to write music characterized by

(a) no tonal center,
(b) extreme dissonance indication extreme emotional expression,
(c) pointalism,
(d) an absence of development resulting in very short movements,
(e) Sprechstimme, melodic speech used only by Schoenberg, and
(f) a new orchestration, Klangfarbenmelodie, in which tone color varied as often as pitch and rhythm.


Atonality was anticipated in Schoenberg's string sextet Verklärte Nacht (1899). His important atonal works included the piano pieces Op. 11 (1908), the Second String Quartet (1907) with soprano, the song cycle Das Buch der hängenden Gärten (1908) and the most important work of his middle period, Pierrot Lunaire (1912), a song cycle for instruments and Sprechstimme. Atonal works of Anton Webern (1883-1945) were Six Bagatelles for String Quartet (1913) and Five Pieces for Orchestra (1913).


Expressionist Opera


Extreme emotion characterized Schoenberg's monodrama Erwartung (1909) and Alban Berg's (1885-1935) more popular Wozzeck (1925).





Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) is considered the spiritual father of neo-classicism, especially in his essay Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music (1907) and his open letter New Classicism (1920) and the Bachian Fantasia (1910) for piano.


Neo-classicism is considered to begin with the ballet Pulcinella (1920) by Stravinsky, a parodistic re-orchestration of pieces attributed to Pergolesi, but Sergei Prokofiev's (1891-1953) Classical Symphony (1918), a Mozart parody, and Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin (1914-17) for piano anticipated the movement. After the loss of tonality and modulation as the goal of composition, composers turned to music of the eighteenth century for models.


Chamber music


Important in establishing neo-classicism were Stravinsky's Octet for Winds (1923) and Paul Hindemith's (1895-1963) Kammermusik, OP. 36 (1924-5) and String Quartet No. 4 (1922). Rhythmic dynamism characterized the early quartets of Bartok, No. 1 (1908), No. 2 (1917). He experimented with odd sonorities, harmonics, col legno and glissandi in combination in No. 3 (1927) and No. 4 (1928).


Neoclassical Opera


Neoclassical opera was established with Stravinsky's Mavra (1922), styled an opera buffa. Others were Darius Milhaud's (1892-1974) Les Euménides (1924) and other operas, Hindemith's Cardillac (1926) and Neues vom Tage (1929), Prokofiev's Love of Three Oranges (1921), Kurt Weill's (1900-50) Three Penny Opera (1928) and the opera-oratorios King David (1923) by Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) and Oedipus Rex (1927) by Stravinsky.


Percussion Ensemble


Both romantic and impressionist orchestration were attacked by Luigi Russolo (1885-1947) and the Futurists in their 1914 concert using 19 noisemakers. George Antheil's (1900-59) Ballet Mécanique (1926) used eight pianos, eight xylophones and assorted noisemakers. Edgard Varèse (1883-1965) experimented with sonority in all his works, especially Amérique (1921) with two sirens and 21 percussion, Hyperprism (1923), Intégales (1925) and the all percussion Ionisation (1931).


Expressionist Twelve-Tone Phase


Expressionist Twelve-Tone Phase (1923-45) added to the earlier style the use of (g) serialism, or twelve-tone row (dodecaphony), a fixed series of all twelve chromatic tones used as a basis for compositions. As long as the intervals of the original row (O) remained the same, the composer could transpose a pitch to any octave, invert the series (I), reverse (R) or both (RI) and transpose all four of these to any other starting pitch. The purposes of the system were to ensure that all the semi-tones were used equally throughout a composition to avoid establishing any one of them as a tonic while setting up a characteristic harmonic idiom for a piece through fixed tonal relationships. The intervals chosen for the row significantly determined the degree of dissonance in a resulting composition. The row could but didn't necessarily provide thematic material.


The twelve-tone system was introduced in the last movement of Schoenberg's Five Piano Pieces, OP. 23 (1923) and used throughout his Serenade, Op. 24 (1923) for instruments and bass voice, and Piano suite, Op. 25 (1925). Berg's Lyric Suite (1926) for string quartet was a romantic adaptation of the system.



Neo-romantic Opera


Puccini continued with La Fanciulla del West (1910), Trittico (1918) and Turandot (1926).


The later operas of Richard Strauss, on librettos by Hugo von Hofmansthal, retreated to an older style reminiscent of Johann Strauss, including Der Rosenkavalier (1911) and Ariadne auf Naxos (1912). His last opera in this style was Capriccio (1942).


Czech Nationalist Opera


A 1916 performance in Prague of Jenufa (1903) by Leoš Janáček  (1854-1928) revived the Czech nationalist school. Folk elements and Moravian speech inflections in recitative were features of his style; also The Makropulos Case (1925).


English Opera


English opera used folk-like material in Hugh the Drover (1928) and Sir John in Love (1929) by Ralph Vaughan-Williams (1872-1958).




Vocal chamber music was a hallmark of modernism. For solo voice and instrumental ensemble (no standard arrangement), important works were Vaughan-Williams' On Wenlock Edge (1909), Francis Poulenc's (1899-1063) Le Bestiaire (1919), Ravel's Chansons madécasses (1926) and Hindemith's Die junge Magd (1922). Das Marienleben (1923) by Hindemith, a conventional cycle with piano, was completely revised and reissued in 1948.


Choral Music


Choral music by the nationalists included Zoltan Kodaly's (1882-1867) Psalmus hungaricus (1923), Gustav Holst's (1874-1934) Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (1908-12) and Vaughan-Williams' Mass in G minor (1922).




All branches of the musical world provided scores for Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, including the impressionist ballets Jeux (1914) by Debussy, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé (1912) and Manuel de Falla's (1876-1946) El Amor Brujo (1915) and Three-Cornered Hat (1919). Richard Strauss composed Josephslegende (1914), and Milhaud introduced jazz rhythms and harmonies in his La Création du Monde (1923). Ravel's Bolero (1928) and Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin (1926) were introduced by other companies.


Symphonic Poem


Impressionist symphonic poem repertoire continued in Promethius (1911) by Scriabin, Nights in the Garden of Spain (1916) by de Falla and Fountains of Rome (1917) and Pines of Rome (1924) by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936).




Vaughan-Williams was influenced by his study of native English melodies in works which were diatonic, though not strictly tonal, including A London Symphony (1914) and Pastoral Symphony (1921); also Holst's suite The Planets (1916).




Important piano concertos were Bartok's No. 1 (1926) and Prokofiev's No. 2 (1914) and No. 3 (1917).


American Jazz



Blues consisted of a slow lament in major with flatted thirds and sevenths for expression and progressions of dominant seventh chords. Important were W.C. Handy's (1873-1958) Memphis Blues (1909) and St. Louis Blues (1914) and the pianist Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton (1885-1941).




From New Orleans jazz style combined the rhythm of ragtime with the flatted thirds and harmony of blues and played it on an instrumental ensemble or jazz band. George Gershwin (1898-1937) brought jazz to the concert hall; Rhapsody in Blue (1924).





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