1950 in Music

My reviews for the music of 1950.


1. Hans Werner Henze: Symphony No. 3 (10/10)

Henze’s third symphony starts off on a decidedly pastoral note, before sounding an ominous foreboding about 15 seconds in. Though the first notes might have convinced us this is something light and fluffy, we’re utterly relieved of that so quickly, it’s almost impossible to believed. In fact, the first movement ends up sounding more like a horror movie soundtrack than traditional classical music. I suspect that a number of major film composers leaned on Henze for their work. Henze employs all sorts of modernist techniques to both the writing and the arrangement.

The second movement continues the downright ominous tone of the work, though, as fitting traditional symphonic construction, the pace is much slower. Again, the sound of that is some kind of demented horror movie. It says a lot to me that the main way I can describe this is with reference to a movie genre that barely existed at the time. I like how, about 7 minutes in, the movement appears to come to its conclusion, but no, it’s just a diversion.

The third movement continues the bonkers modernism with nods to the second movement at the very least (I guess I
haven’t listened to the whole thing enough to hear echoes of the first).

All in all, this has to be one of my favourite symphonies of the era. A true classic from an incredibly underrated composer.


2. Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Sings Gershwin (8/10)

Full disclosure: I don’t like vocal jazz. However, I listened to this because we are talking about one of the most famous singers of the 20th century and I at least should be acquainted with her.

And after listening I can say I get what the hype is about but I would rather here her singing music that is at least a little more jazz. I am not saying this isn’t jazz; obviously it is. And it’s brave, at least in how bare it is. And I’d rather listen to these interpretations of Gershwin than a lot of others.

But, if you are like me and love jazz for the thrill of hearing restless innovators trying to break conventions, there is little of that here. I respect this, but I will never love it.


3. Aram Khachaturian: Triumphal Poem (6/10)

I have heard the Triumphal Poem before, though I’m not sure where. (In a movie?) It’s big and bombastic like much of Khachaturian’s music, and generally lacking in subtlety. It is catchy, though. I remember it from whenever I heard it before. Catchy, obvious, easy.


Miles Davis Band: “Venus de Milo” / “Darn that Dream” (??/10)

Miles Davis Sextet: “Conception” / “Ray’s Idea” (??/10) [unissued?]

Sarah Vaughan in Hi-Fi [incomplete, issued when?] (??/10)


Not Ranked: Lee Konitz: Subconcious-Lee (10/10)

Not released until 1955, this is essential listening as Konitz and his band bridge the gap between bop and something that was coming to be known as cool jazz.

Read the review.

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