In 1926, for the first time, people could drive on just-completed U.S. Route 66, which winds from Chicago to L.A., more than 2000 miles all the way.
Sounds like a song, doesn’t it? So does music for that year by America’s Aaron Copland and Romanian composer George Enescu. So might something by Ruth Crawford, singer Pete Seeger’s future stepmother. Those compositions are featured in a concert on April 23rd at Presbyterian Church of the Cross. A Year in Classical Music presents “Jazz and Romanian Fiddling in Classical Music from 1926.” “Fiddling,” because there are two violin sonatas plus other pieces for violin and piano.
AYICM creator and host Brian Linnell calls the 1920s, “perhaps the most dynamic decade in the history of classical music. The mainstream classical tradition (was) inflected with early Modernist techniques, and many nationalist styles were addressed by classical composers for the first time.”
Copland’s “Nocturne” and “Ukulele Serenade,” show his fascination with and use of such Americana as jazz, blues, and ragtime. “Although drastically different in character,” says Jeremy Grimshaw of All Music Guide, “there’s a common expressive ground (while) the sinuous, smoky character of the ‘Nocturne’ is rudely undercut by the calculated clumsiness of the second piece.”
Crawford was, like Copland, in her mid 20s and,at that time,far more interested in new ideas. When creating her Violin Sonata, she was writing “ruggedly assertive, intensely expressive works” according to All Music Guide’s Blair Sanderson, describing Crawford as part of early 20th Century avant-garde. He hears her writing as suggestive of influences from Scriabin’s “mystical atonality” and Schoenberg’s “disciplined organization,” perhaps even some of the feelings of Varèse. “Yet there is no mistaking her own voice and sensibility,” Sanderson adds “in her dramatic gestures, energetic counterpoint, and brusque dissonances.”
Many music lovers think of Enescu as Romania’s most important composer. Certainly much identified with his “Romanian Rhapsodies” from 1901, his Violin Sonata No. 3 — “In the Popular Romanian Style”, has also become exceptionally popular. In this work from when he was in his mid 40’s, he does not quote actual folk tunes, any more than did Copland in his Two Pieces The violin takes on the role of a gypsy fiddle, while the piano often imitates the sound of the cimbalom and the lute-like kobza. “Super folklore” is the description given by Romanian modern composer Pascal Bentoiu.
The performing artists are William Wolcott playing the violin and Yulia Kalashnikova at the piano. Wolcott is a protégé of famed violinist Eugene Fodor, is a member of the Nebraska Arts Council’s Touring Artists Roster, and has his own teaching studio in Omaha. Kalashnikova, who earned her Master’s Degree in piano performance from Russia’s Kazan State Conservatory, is a member of the Omaha Conservatory of Music piano faculty and the accompanist for the Omaha Children’s Chorus
1926 was an historic year as well because that’s when NBC started broadcasting and when there was the first public display of television. People could hear and watch live music on those media. But this live performance exists only in person.
The concert is April 23 at Presbyterian Church of the Cross, 1517 South 114 St Sun. 3 p.m. Free, but a goodwill donation is welcome. AYICM.com