Olivier Messiaen – Oraison (1937)

Olivier Messian´s  “Oriason” is written for the early electronic instrument, the Ondes Martenot, a close relation of the theremin.

Olivier Messiaen (December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources); harmonically and melodicaly it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations. Many of his compositions depict what he termed “the marvellous aspects of the faith”, and drew on his deeply held Roman Catholicism. [source]

Ensemble D´Ondes Martenot De Montréal. 1992.


Grażyna Bacewicz – Violin Concerto No.1 (1937)

Violin Concerto No.1 is written by Grażyna Bacewiczs in 1937. This recording is from the CD Grazyna Bacewicz: Violin Concertos Nos. 1, 3, 7, recorded in 2008 and 2009.

Chandos certainly hedged its bets right when it came to programming its second release with Polish violinist Joanna Kurkowicz; although they are well known and popular in former Eastern bloc countries, the violin concertos of Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz have never been circulated on recordings in the West.

The Violin Concerto No. 1 (1937) was written for Bacewicz herself to play. The earlier concerto is attuned to neo-classicism and French style, whereas folk motifs dominate the later one. Very beautiful and technically assured concerti. [source]

I. Allegro  (4:05)
II. Andante (Molto Espressivo) (4:40)
III. Vivace – Meno Mosso, Ma Non Troppo – Più Mosso – Tempo I (3:30)

Joanna Kurkowicz, Violin
Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Conductor – Lukasz Borowicz




[inspired by Ronnie Rocket, thanks a lot. And thanks to CLASSICAL20.COM]


Samuel Barber – First Essay for Orchestra op. 12 (1937)

Of the handful of 20th century American composers rightly esteemed as genuine practitioners of Romantic compositional styles, Samuel Barber is quite possibly the prime exemplar. Born in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1910, Barber was the prototypical musical wunderkind, setting to work on his first opera at the age of nine. In 1924, he became one of the first students to enroll in the now-renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and a number of his most popular and enduring works, such as The School for Scandal Overture and Dover Beach for voice and string quartet, were written while Barber was still a student at the Curtis Institute.

Barber’s Essay for Orchestra (later re-titled First Essay for Orchestra following returns to the form in 1942 and 1978) was written in 1937, ostensibly at the behest of Arturo Toscanini, and given its premiere the following year, along with Barber’s Adagio for Strings. The Italian cellist-turned-conductor was an unusually keen champion of Barber’s music, which contributed significantly to the young composer’s early fame and international recognition. The attention and high praise of Artur Rodzinski and Ralph Vaughan Williams also helped to ensure Samuel Barber’s early place among the pantheon of distinguished American composers.

The musical “essay,” a form of Barber’s own rather clever invention and one with which he had some previous success over a decade earlier in his Three Essays for Piano, is a medium much like its more familiar literary counterpart. As with a written essay, the idea behind a musical essay is the development of a complex, well-reasoned, thoughtful work drawn from a single melodic thesis.

The Essay begins with divided violas and cellos gently stating the work’s main theme in a mournful, languid Andante sostenuto. This same theme is soon taken over by upper strings, while briefly joined by the horns, and is only partially developed by an iridescent brass choir. A short-lived animated section is heralded by oboes, clarinets, horns, and trumpets followed by a restatement of the first theme, this time by the full orchestra. The transition to the work’s frenzied middle section comes as lower strings offer counterpoint to the horn’s repetition of the earlier theme. This middle section contains some of the Essay’s more intricate and animated writing, with strings playing light, nimble rhythmic figures in triple meter evocative of a symphonic scherzo. Soon, woodwinds and piano mimic this pattern while strings accompany with pizzicato quarter notes before returning to the figure they first introduced. Much momentum builds as the piece rushes to an exasperated climax then quickly tapers off. The work ends with a highly unsettling “question” posited by a trio of trumpets and tentatively answered by hushed violins set against a backdrop of grumbling timpani. [Source]

– J. Anthony McAlister is a cellist and writer currently at work on a fictional account of the abdication of King Edward VIII.