My reviews of music that was published or premiered or was released in 1942.
1. Arnold Schoenberg: Piano Concerto Op. 42 (10/10)
One of the most important serialist works, me thinks (though I have heard so few). A really incredible piece of work. This is the kind of thing I love music that is both forward-thinking and evocative of a tradition at the same time. Incredible stuff.
2. Maurice Durufle: Prélude et fugue sur le nom d’Alain op. 7 (9/10)
The prelude is all a-swirl, like much of Durufle’s up-tempo work. but this one feels particularly daunting and, like some of his other pieces, feels like it presages minimalism at least a little bit. Not knowing any better, this has to be one of the most demanding pieces of organ I’ve ever heard. It’s kind of bonkers.
The fugue I guess I would have expected to have the same kind of heady, break-neck feel of the prelude but it is more in the tradition of a baroque fugue (far as I can tell) and practically feels like Bach compared to Durufle’s other work (especially the prelude of this piece). It’s definitely not as conventional as that description suggests but it just has more of an older feel to it than the other music of his I’ve heard. It’s downright magisterial in the middle, and then it goes pretty bonkers and renders comparisons to Bach irrelevant.
2. Paul Hindemith: Ludas Tonalis (9/10)
Ludas Tonalis is Hindemith’s attempt at a modern version of The Well Tempered Clavier. And though it is obviously not quite up to that standard, it’s still a noble attempt. This is far and away my favourite of his music so far. I have found his orchestral music to be rather conservative, but this piece manages to both honour tradition (obviously, if it’s a Bach homage/re-imagining) and push the way we think about music, albeit while remaining conventionally tonal. It’s quite the work.
4. Michael Tippett: String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp (8/10)
I wrote this when I first heard it:
“Tippett’s second quartet is very nice, but hardly life-changing. I prefer his first and, if memory serves, the later ones.”
I generally agree with that assessment. It’s the least of the first four.
5. Aram Khachaturian: Gayane Suite (6/10)
The suite from Gayane (I assume it is a suite because it is so short) opens with one of the most famous pieces of classical music of the 20th century, “Sabre Dance,” which you have undoubtedly heard in multiple films (and, particularly, in cartoons). It is a brief but lively and rousing piece of music. As is most of the rest of this music in this suite. But this is music from another time. I understand that there were incomprehensible pressures in the Soviet union to produce a certain kind of music, but this is not music I love. It’s full of big, easy emotions. It get that it’s meant to be bombastic, but it is just so damn bombastic… My introduction to Khachaturian does not endear me to him. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just
6. Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra: [title missing] (6/10)
This track features a very full band sound behind Billie Holiday and his more of a jazz pop ballad than actual jazz. Like her earliest recordings we wait to hear her sing until well after the 1-minute mark. It’s pretty over-the-top in terms of orchestration, but her voice is up front.
7. Alexander Brott: Ritual (1942)
Alexander Brott’s Ritual is a fine piece of music. I’m sure that it’s notable in any way, given when it was written, but it is enjoyable if it far from innovative.