1926 in Music

1. Alban Berg: ‘Lyric Suite’ (10/10)

Berg’s suite is just a fantastic early example of serialism at work. It provokes and delights in equal measure and it’s a wonder that people thought music like this – that is, this beautiful – was somehow bad, or problematic, or whatever insult various traditionalists threw at the serialists. This is just a great work and, for me, one of the great string quartets of the 20th century. I real pleasure.


2. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra: “Hot Mustard” (10/10)

“Hot Mustard” is a bouncy track with a tuba fill, which is cool. You can hear the writing getting more and more sophisticated for backing the solos. This has some of the great swooning of earlier dixieland too. Also, Henderson plays a rare piano solo.


3. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra: “The Chant” (9/10)

“The Chant” has a bonkers organ part on it. An organ! AN ORGAN!!! Okay, sorry, that just wasn’t very common in 1926.


4. Leos Janacek: Cappriccio (9/10)

The Cappriccio is a neat little chamber piece that sounds extremely modern – there’s a jazz influence, I think, though I don’t know that Janacek would have known jazz (it could just be the influence of the Viennese school and I’m getting things confused). I like it, but it feels very unlike Janacek. (Not that this is a bad thing…) The later movements are more conventional, however – much more pastoral in the Romantic sense. And there’s one part that sounds like it’s right out of a movie.


5. Maurice Durufle: Scherzo, Op. 2 (9/10)

Durufle’s first published piece for organ is a dynamic thing full of contemporary ideas packed into not a whole lot of space. My knowledge of forms isn’t what it should be, so I don’t know how it holds up as a scherzo, but I like this thing and it has echoes (to me) or more recent film music.


6. Leos Janacek: Sinfonietta (8/10)

The Sinfonietta instantly strikes a chord with me because Emerson, Lake and Palmer covered the opening Allegretto on their debut album. So, right away, all attempts to objectively judge it fly out the window. It’s certainly not one of Janacek’s most daring works but it is engaging and energetic and certainly demonstrative of his ability to pack lots into relatively short pieces.


Not  Ranked: Maurice Durufle: Prélude, adagio et choral varié sur le theme du ‘Veni Creator’ op. 4

I reviewed the 1930 version of this piece.

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