Thursday, 31 December 2020

See the New Year in with a celebration of the Roaring 20s

If, like me, you want to listen to something other than the music of Johann Strauss at New Year, then the English Symphony Orchestra, conductor Kenneth Woods, has the answer. The latest in the orchestra's Music from Wyastone - Studio Concert Series is released tonight, 31 December 2020. Entitled The Roaring 20s - Decade of Melody and Mayhem the performance features American jazz and ragtime alongside works by European composers influenced by these styles.

So we have the Charlston Rag by Eubie Blake, a creator of ragtime whose performing career virtually spanned the 20th century, and a 1925 work by jazz composer and pianist Jelly Roll Morton, Black Bottom Stomp

Then we move to Europe for the jazz-inspired Suite for Chamber Orchestra by Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942). Encouraged by Dvorak, having studies with Claude Debussy and Max Reger, Schulhoff was one of the first European composers to embrace jazz, but his political sympathies and his Jewish heritage caused problems with the Nazis and he died in a concentration camp in 1942.

Ernst Krenek (1900-1991) was Austrian of Czech heritage and he studied in Vienna. He had a long career, but is virtually only known for his jazz-influenced opera Johnny spielt auf, but the extreme success of this did not sit easily with him and he changed his composing style radically. ESO will be playing Emil Bauer's Fantasie on Jonny spielt auf

The concert ends with one of the most iconic jazz-age classical works, Le boeuf sur le toit by French composer Darius Milhaud (1892-1974). Originally a surrealist ballet, Milhaud based the music around songs which he had learned in Brazil where from 1917 to 1919, he served as secretary to Paul Claudel, the eminent poet and dramatist who was then the French ambassador to Brazil, the work had originally been intended as the accompaniment to a silent film, and Milhaud re-worked the music into a virtuosic violin concerto, Le boeuf sur le toit, Cinéma-fantaisie for Violin and Orchestra, which is played here with soloist Zoe Beyers, leader of the ESO.

Full details from the ESO website.

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