1935 in Music

Music reviews written about music published, premiered or released in 1935.

1. Charles Ives: The Unanswered Question [1935 Revision] (10/10)

The Unanswered Question deservedly gets a lot of attention. It’s a brief piece, but it’s a memorable one, and the philosophical undertones of the piece appear to add to its appeal for a lot of people. I’m not sure that’s necessary, however, as, whether we’re talking about the original or the 1935 revision, this is a pretty radical piece of music that manages to be haunting in a way that few other pieces of the 20th century have managed. (I am reminded of Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, written for way more instruments, decades later.) It expresses the existential angst of the 20th century like little else. It’s great.

2. Karl Amadeus Hartmann: Simplicius Simplicissimus (9/10)

From the very opening bars it’s clear that this is no ordinary opera. And though that’s true of the most path-breaking and challenging operas of the early 20th century (I am thinking chiefly of Berg’s work), this one is perhaps more shocking given the (seemingly) more traditional stance of the composer.
Read the full review.

3. Memphis Minnie: “Chickasaw Train Blues” (9/10)

This one has another one of those thumping basslines that Minnie or her partner were so adept at. The lead playing is particularly clear and defined in this recording, compared to a lot of her other sides from the period.

4. Michael Tippett: String Quartet No. 1 (9/10)

The first quartet is less radical than some of the most impressive quartets of this era, but is very, very pretty. Though I am inclined to dock marks for it being more conventional than, say Bartok or Carter (who wrote way later anyway), it’s such a pleasing composition that I don’t think I will.

5. Memphis Minnie: “Jockey Man Blues” (9/10)

This is a cool track with a powerful lead vocal from Minnie and a fascinating thumping bass part that feels more like percussion than guitar.

6. Memphis Minnie: “Moonshine” (8/10)

A rare piano blues featuring a guitar as well (don’t think there’s anyone else). The recording isn’t so clear but it’s more compelling than the other piano blues I’ve heard of hers from this year. It’s a fine balance, finding a strong performance on a fine recording.

There’s a trumpet in this one, too, by the way.

7. Memphis Minnie: “Doctor Doctor Blues”(8/10)

A rare piano blues for Minnie, it’s a pretty straightforward blues number with a charismatic performance from Minnie with some speaking which is rare for her (I think).

8. Paul Hindemith: Mathis der Maler [Opera Version] (7/10)

This opera has a weird origin, it was a symphony that was expanded to be an opera.

Anyway, The opera is massive (it’s 3 hours long, divided into 7 “tableaux”), and is generally regarded well because it’s an allegory for nazism.

Not to be picky, but I feel like there are a number of better (and shorter!) allegorical operas about nazism out there. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s a fine piece of music – despite it’s size – it’s just that it’s revivalism. It’s really high end revivalism, but it is revivalism nonetheless. So I have trouble getting excited about it.

9. Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra: “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” (7/10)

This is a straight up early swing number with not that much of Billie Holiday, herself. Like many jazz vocalists she is, at this early stage, just part of a larger band.

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