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Interwar Period and WWII (1918-1945)

Neoclassicism
 Reviving, imitating, or evoking the styles, genres, and forms of pre-
Romantic music
 Tend to be neotonal (centric): pitch center established through
reiteration
 Take the phrasing and gestures of pre-Romantic music and make them
angular and highly articulated

Historical Context
 Conclusion of the “long nineteenth century”: 1789-1918
 Dismantling of 4 Empires: Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, German,
Russian
 Russian Revolution beings in 1917 with Bolsheviks overthrowing the
Czar-government seizes Stravinsky’s family properties and his works
that were published in Russia were no longer protected by copyright
 World War I ends in 1918 with around 9 million casualities: first war to
use aerial bombing, machine guns, tanks, and poison gas
 Horros of war prompt a shift in artistic style: composers turn away
from pleasure, individuality, and intensity to create a more detached
and neutral style

Symphony of Psalms (1930)


 Work for mixed chorus and orchestra, sung in Latin because it’s a dead
language that does not have a strong emotional impact on most
listeners
 Unusual scoring- orchestra with no violin

Stravinsky’s Neoclassical Works


 The Soldier’s Tale (1918): theatrical depiction of a sildier making a deal
with the devil (includes choreography and narrator); scored for a small
ensemble to be economical
 Pulcinella (1920): ballet score for Diaghilev; recomposition of music by
Pergolesi
 Octet (1923): “My octet is a musical object. My Octet is not an
emotive work but a musical composition based on objective elements
which are sufficient in themselves.”
 The Rake’s Progress (1951 opera): return to “number opera”, plot
bsed on Hogarth’s paintings and incorporates references to Baroque
and Classical operas, like Don Giovanni

Béla Bartók’s (1881-1945) Career


 1881: Born in a small Hungarian city, parents were teachers and
amateur musicians
 Virtuoso pianos: performed all over Europe, portrays himself as
successor of Liszt.
 One of the first ethnomusicologists: beginning in 1905 devises means,
along with Kodály, to record and transcribe “peasant” folk music.
Wants to understand the connections between closely related cultures
(Romanian, Croatian, Transylvanian, etc.)
 Bartók said that his study of folk music ”was of decisive influence upon
my work, because it liberated me from the tyrranical rule of major and
minor keys”

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 1934: leaves the Academy of Music to become full-time
ethnomusicologist at the Academy of Sciences
o Prepare a critical edition of Hungarian folk music
 1940: Settles in NYC – rise of Nazi Germany threatens to conquer all of
Eastern Europe with fascist takeover
 Primary compositional interest is to merge folk music melodies with
Classical structures (Concerto for Orchestra, MSPC, 6 string quartets, 3
piano concertos, 2 violin sonatas, Mikrokosmos, folk song
arrangements)

MSPC (1936)
 The most intensively organized of Bartók’s compositions as the subject
from the fugue of the opening movement generates the entire work.
 Movement 3: Adagio – study in sonorities, especially Bartók’s “night
music” style
 Establishes C and F# as competing pitch centers (polymodal
chromaticism)
o Overlaying modal scales (Phrygian and Lydian) which generates
all 12 pitches and select pitch centers).

Germany: Weimar Republic, 1919-1933


 1870 – Germany becomes a unified nation
 Attempt to establish liberal democracy in Germany after WWI;
convene in Weimar in 1919 to write new constitution
 Big cultural revival in Germany; Richard Strauss, Kurt Weill, Paul
Hindemith are thriving composers (Kurtz Weill and Bertolt Brecht
collaborate on The Threepenny Opera, which celebrates criminals and
delivers an anti-capitalism message.

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 Weill devises a musical theater style heavily based on cabaret
performance; works on Broadway when he moves to the United States
 German form of Neoclassicism called “New Objectivity” (“Neue
Sachlichkeit”) opposed complexity and promoted the use of familiar
elements – accessibility
 1933- Hitler elected Chancellor, institutes Nazi ideology

Jazz in Weimar German (Jonathan Wipplinger)


 From the beginning of the Weimar Republic through the early years of
the Nazi Regime, American Jazz was a constant presence
 Deployment of American soldiers during WWI promoted the
transmission of jazz to Europe
 Berlin in the 1920s = invigorated nightlife in the form of dance halls,
cabarets, revues and nightclubs
 Earliest use of Jazz instrumentation and social dances in a major
German classical composition = Hindemith’s Kammermusik No. 1
(1922)

The Threepenny Opera (Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht)


 Based on a British Baroque work: John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera,
which is a parody of Handel’s operas
 The protagonists are thieves and prostitutes
 Weill and Brecht want to make a social critique: “the critique of
society. I had tried to show that the mind-set and emotional life of
street robbers is immensely similar to the mind-set and emotional life
of respectable citizens”
 Weill’s instrumentation is modeled on a jazz band and includes basic
jazz harmonies (blue notes, chords with an added 6th)

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 Work premiered to acclaim in 1928 and is immediately banned by the
Nazis in 1933

Music and the Nazis


 Regulations: Music must not be by Jewish composers, dissonant,
atonal, 12-tone, jazz-influenced, intellectual or left-wing. All
unacceptable music labeled “degenerate” or deformed.
 Many composers flee Germany and Europe (Schoenberg, Bartók,
Weill, Hindemith, Stravinsky)
 Focus on performance, especially Wagner and Beethoven, rather than
creation of new music
 “degenerate music” exhibit: 1938, one year after the “degenerate” art
exhibit

Paul Hindemith (1895 – 1963)


 Important teacher and music theorist at the Berlin School of Music,
Yale University, and the University of Zurich
 By the late 1920s Hindemith was disturbed by the lack of interest of
his peers to connect with the general public; he develops an accessible
neo-Romantic style
 Goal = create rewarding music for young or amateur performers;
pedagogical function (e.g. composes sonatas for viola, trombone,
tuba)
 “harmonic fluctuation” = relatively consonant chords move toward
greater dissonance then gradually or suddenly move back to
consonance
 Mathis der Maler (1934-35)= opera about Matthias Grünewald and
the dilemma of an artist in times of political strife; depicts the German
Peasants’ War of 1525 as an allegory for modern times

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