1925 in Music

1. Paul Hindemith: Kammermusik No. 4, op. 36 no. 3 (9/10)

As with the other Kammermusik concertos, this is confusingly numbered, as it’s the 5th piece, but titled “No. 4.” It’s a violin concerto this time.

It begins quite differently than the others, as the main instrument is not the initial focus of the piece. So that’s a nice change.

It’s the second movement where the violin gets to come in, and it’s an excellent bit that, as usual for Hindemith, walks the line between tuneful and avant garde.

The third movement is calm and sedate and much more traditional. But it still has an appealing, mournful feel.

The fourth movement throws things off with having the main melody played initially by a trumpet (I think it’s a trumpet). That’s a neat trick I don’t know that I’ve heard before.

Anyway, I think this is the best of the Op. 36 concertos.

2. Paul Hindemith: Kammermusik No. 5, op. 36 no. 4 (9/10)

The 6th Kammermusik gets off to a roaring start, with some aggressive solo viola at the top of its range. It really grabs me and doesn’t let up. It’s possibly my favourite opening moment in Hindemith’s ouevre.

The second movement again pulls his now usual trick of leading off with an instrument different than the solo instrument. Otherwise, it is pretty standard stuff for a concerto’s slow movement.

The third movement is considerably more upbeat but sounds almost “classical” at times in it’s earliest moments. (Given the actual music, that’s a ridiculous statement, as there are multiple voices. But it’s more the impressions of the orchestra’s voice that harken back to that era.) But it becomes far more windy, serpentine and modern very, very shortly.

The fourth movement starts off with a real modernist take on what could pass for Monteverdi or Mozart were there not so many voices intercutting.

On the whole, this is particularly interesting one of Hindemith’s “chamber” concertos.

3. Leos Janacek: Concertino (9/10)

Why do I know the first movement of the Concertino so well? I’ve heard it somewhere seemingly many times. I don’t know the rest of it, like the first movement. It’s also quite modern, perhaps more so over all than the Cappriccio even if that starts out far more modern sounding. It’s great stuff.

4. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra: “Sugar Foot Stomp” (9/10)

“Sugar Foot Stomp” is a King Oliver tune (I believe) which is notable for being jumpier (drums!) than most of what came before it by this band. Armstrong is excellent again. That might be him yelling too.

5. George Gershwin: Concerto in F (8/10)

Though it lacks the initial appeal to my ears of Rhapsody in Blue this is, evidently, the more sophisticated piece of music. (Though apparently it wasn’t quite given that due at the time, at least by many critics.)

I am, at bottom, a music naif. I cannot play an instrument and I cannot write music. I only know what I hear or read and I only know about artistic “progress” in music through reading a lot of criticism and history and from listening to perhaps just a bit too much music.

From that, I can say this is the least engaging, to me, of Gershwin’s major ’20s orchestral works. It’s the least immediate, anyway.

But everything I’ve read suggests it’s actually his best, at least from a “classical” perspective. I am open to that interpretation because, I said, I’m a naif, and I prefer to defer to authority when I feel really out of my depth, as I do with the idea that this is “more sophisticated” than one of my favourite pieces of music of the ’20s.

All that said, it’s still an impressive thing. And I think that, had I been unaware of Rhapsody in Blue when I first heard this, I probably would have liked this a whole lot.

6. Paul Hindemith: Kammermusik No. 3, op. 36 no. 2 (8/10)

The fourth Kammermusik, confusingly titled “No. 3,” is a cello concerto. It remains as aggressively modernist as the other works in the series, though, like the earlier piano concerto, it fails to be on the absolute forefront of the revolution. Hindemith isn’t willing to completely break from tradition, which is both admirable and frustrating.

This is a nice piece, but it’s not among the great cello music of even this part of the century.

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