Classical Music Timeline: 1920s

This is one of a series of postings of important classical music dates, from the 17th century to the present. Included are the date and location of the birth and death of composers, and the premiere date and location of the first public performance of works. When the premiere date and location is unknown, the date or year of completion of the work is given. Though reasonably comprehensive, this is a subjective list, so the choice of composers and works is mine. If you find any errors, or if you can offer a premiere date and location for a work where only the completion date or year is listed, please post a comment here.

1920
FebruaryLe Tombeau de Couperin (orchestral version) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was first performed in Paris, France

March 25The Hymn of Jesus, op. 37 by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

April 8 – Charles Griffes (1884-1920) died in New York, New York

May 23Short Festival Te Deum, H. 145 by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

June 20Three Tone-Pictures, op. 5 by Charles Griffes (1884-1920) was first performed in Greenwich, Connecticut

October 2 – Max Bruch (1838-1920) died in Berlin, Germany

1921
January 23The Three Miracles of Saint Cecilia, incidental music to the play by Henri Ghéon, by Aita Donostia (1886-1956) was first performed in Paris, France

January 30The Fog is Lifting, for flute and harp, op. 41, no. 2, by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) was first performed in Copenhagen, Denmark

February 20 – Ruth Gipps (1921-1999) was born in Bexhill-on-Sea, England

March 4 – Kaljo Raid (1921-2005) was born in Tallinn, Estonia

September 27 – Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921) died in Neustrelitz, Germany

October 9Taras Bulba by Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was first performed in Brno, Czech Republic

October 21 – Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was born in Northampton, Northamptonshire, England

December 16 – Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) died in Algiers, Algeria

December 16 – Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, op. 26 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Chicago, Illinois

1922
January 16 – Symphony No. 3, “Pastoral”, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in London, England

January 30 – Percy Grainger (1882-1961) completed Spoon River (AFMS No. 2) [elastic scoring]

February 25Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was first performed in Paris, France

March 10 – Hans Sitt (1860-1922) died in Leipzig, Germany

May 20Daisies, in F major, op. 38, no. 3 (piano-only version) by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was first performed in London, England

October 19Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) as orchestrated by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), was first performed in Paris, France

1923
Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) completed the Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite II

Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957) completed Baïlèro, Chants d’Auvergne, Series 1, No. 2

May 14The Perfect Fool by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in London, England

May 28 – György Ligeti (1923-2006) was born in Târnăveni, Romania

September 30Hassan, incidental music, by Frederick Delius (1862-1934) was first performed in London, England

October 18 – Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, op. 19 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

1924
February 12Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin (1898-1937) was first performed in New York, New York

February 27 – Trevor Duncan (1924-2005) was born in London, England

May 8 – The revised version of Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 16 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

July 27 – Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) died in Berlin, Germany

September 14Ruralia hungarica, Five pieces for orchestra, op. 32b, by Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960) was first performed in Pécs, Hungary

September 28 – Rudolf Barshai (1924-2010) was born in Labinsk, Russia

November 4 – Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) died in Paris, France

December 14The Pines of Rome, tone poem by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) was first performed in Rome, Italy

1925
Enrique Fernández Arbós (1863-1939) completed his orchestrations of five of the twelve piano pieces, Iberia, by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)

May 29 – Concerto Grosso No. 1 for String Orchestra with Piano Obbligato by Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was first performed in Cleveland, Ohio

August 31Mississippi Suite by Ferde Grofé (1892-1972) was first performed in New York, New York

November 20 – Clytus Gottwald (1925-2023) was born in Szczawno-Zdrój, Poland

November 29 – The Love for Three Oranges, Suite, op. 33bis by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

December 3 – Piano Concerto in F major by George Gershwin (1898-1937) was first performed in New York, New York

1926
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) completed Seven Part-Songs, op. 44

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) completed Zarabanda lejana (Distant Sarabande)

May 2 – Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano, FP 43 by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was first performed in Paris, France

May 12 – Symphony No. 1 in F minor, op. 10 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

June 26 – Sinfonietta by Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

October – Peter Warlock (1894-1930) completed Capriol Suite

October 31 – Symphony No. 5 in F♯ minor, “Dance Symphony”, by Emil von Reznicek (1860-1945) was first performed in Vienna, Austria

November 1The Profound Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, incidental music to the play by Henri Ghéon, by Aita Donostia (1886-1956) was first performed in Paris, France

December 26Tapiola, tone poem in B minor, op. 112 by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was first performed in New York, New York

1927
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) completed Gypsy Caprice

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) completed Three Botticelli Pictures

March 24Háry János Suite, op. 35a by Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) was first performed in Barcelona, Spain

June 7Le pas d’acier (“The Steel Step”), ballet, op. 41 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

June 14The Red Poppy, ballet, op. 70 by Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

October 27 – Dominick Argento (1927-2019) was born in York, Pennsylvania

1928
Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) completed Schluck und Jau, incidental music

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) completed Brazilian Impressions

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) completed the two-piano transcription of his orchestral piece, Cinco piezas infantiles (Five children’s pieces)

February 12Egdon Heath, tone poem, op. 47 by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was first performed in New York, New York

June 12Gli uccelli (“The Birds”) by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) was first performed in São Paulo, Brazil

August 12 – Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) died in Ostrava, Czech Republic

September 11 – String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters”, by Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was first performed in Brno, Czech Republic

October 9 – Einojuhani Rautavaara (1929-2016) was born in Helsinki, Finland

December 13An American in Paris by George Gershwin (1898-1937) was first performed in New York, New York

1929
January 11 – Stabat Mater, op. 53 by Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) was first performed in Warsaw, Poland

February 10 – Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) was born in Los Angeles, California

February 21Roman Festivals, tone poem by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) was first performed in New York, New York

May 21L’enfant prodigue (“The Prodigal Son”), ballet, op. 46 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was first performed in Paris, France

November 7 – Suite-Divertissement, for violin, viola, cello, and piano, by Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986) was first performed in Brussels, Belgium

1910s

1930s→

Classical Music Timeline: 1900s

This is one of a series of postings of important classical music dates, from the 17th century to the present. Included are the date and location of the birth and death of composers, and the premiere date and location of the first public performance of works. When the premiere date and location is unknown, the date or year of completion of the work is given. Though reasonably comprehensive, this is a subjective list, so the choice of composers and works is mine. If you find any errors, or if you can offer a premiere date and location for a work where only the completion date or year is listed, please post a comment here.

1900
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) completed the final version of The Swan of Tuonela, op. 22, no. 3

March 2 – Kurt Weill (1900-1950) was born in Dessau, Germany

April 7 – Piano Concerto in C♯ minor, op. 45, by Amy Beach (1867-1944) was first performed in Boston, Massachusetts

July 1 – Symphony No. 1 in E minor, op. 39, by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

July 2Finlandia, op. 26, by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was first performed in Helsinki, Finland

July 12 – Requiem in D minor, op. 48, by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was first performed in Paris, France

November 3The Tale of Tsar Saltan, opera, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

November 14 – Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was born in Brooklyn, New York

1901
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) completed The Snow is Falling, op. 1, no. 5, for children’s chorus and organ

January 27 – Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) died in Milan, Italy

February 3 – Pelléas et Mélisande Suite, op. 80, by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was first performed in Paris, France

February 7Pohádka (Fairy Tale), op. 16, by Josef Suk (1874-1935) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

September 14Chanson de Nuit, in G major, op. 15, no. 1, and Chanson de Matin, in G major, op. 15, no. 2 by Edward Elgar (1857-1934) were first performed in London, England

October 19 – Pomp and Circumstance, March No. 1 and March No. 2, by Edward Elgar (1857-1934) were first performed in Liverpool, England

October 27Three Nocturnes, CD 98, by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was first performed in Paris, France

November 9 – Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, op. 18, by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

November 22 – Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) was born in Sagunto, Valencia, Spain

1902
Josef Suk (1874-1935) completed Elegie (Under the Impression of Zeyer’s Vyšehrad), op. 23

March 29 – William Walton (1902-1983) was born in Oldham, England

June 28 – Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) was born in New York, New York

September 10 – The Witch of Atlas, Tone Poem for Orchestra No. 5, by Granville Bantock (1868-1946), was first performed in Worcester, England

1903
June 6 – Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) was born in Kojori, Georgia

October 8 – Helios Overture, op. 17, by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) was first performed in Copenhagen, Denmark

October 19 – Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

November 10 – Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 43, by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was first performed in Stockholm, Sweden

1904
January 13 – Richard Addinsell (1904-1977) was born in London, England

March 16In the South (Alassio), op. 50, by Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was first performed in London, England

March 30Koanga, opera, by Frederick Delius (1862-1934) was first performed in Wuppertal, Germany

May 1 – Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) died in Prague, Czech Republic

October 18 – Symphony No. 5 in C♯ minor by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was first performed in Cologne, Germany

December 2Songs of Travel by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in London, England

December 30 – Dmitry Kabalevsky (1904-1987) was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia

1905
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) completed Suite bergamasque, CD 82

Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960) completed Winterreigen, op. 13

August 23 – Constant Lambert (1905-1951) was born in London, England

October 15La Mer, CD 111, by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was first performed in Paris, France

October 19 – Violin Concerto in D minor, op. 47, by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

November 7 – William Alwyn (1905-1985) was born in Northampton, England

December 9 – Dance of the Seven Veils, from Salome, opera by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was first performed in Dresden, Germany

1906
Aita Donostia (1886-1956) completed Rapsodia Baskongada [Basque Rhapsody]

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) completed the orchestration of “Une barque sur l’océan” from Miroirs

March 7 – Konzertstück in D major, for cello and orchestra, op. 12, by Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960) was first performed in Budapest, Hungary

May 9 – Iberia, Book 1, by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) was first performed in Paris, France

May 27 – Symphony No. 6 in A minor by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was first performed in Essen, Germany

July 24 – Alfredo Casella (1883-1947) completed Symphony No. 1 in B minor, op. 5

September 25 – Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia

December 6 – Orchestral version of Dolly Suite, op. 56 by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was first performed in Monte Carlo, Monaco [orchestrated by Henri Rabaud (1873-1949)]

1907
February 3 – Symphony No. 2 in C minor, “Asrael Symphony”, op. 27, by Josef Suk (1874-1935) was first performed in Prague, Czech Republic

February 16 – Alec Wilder (1907-1980) was born in Rochester, New York

February 21 – “The Walk to the Paradise Garden”, from the opera A Village Romeo and Juliet, by Frederick Delius (1862-1934) was first performed in Berlin, Germany

February 22 – Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet, and Strings by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was first performed in Paris, France

September 4 – Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) died in Bergen, Norway

September 11 – Iberia, Book 2, by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) was first performed in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

November 17 – James Moody (1907-1995) was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland

1908
Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933) completed Marche triomphale, “Nun danket alle Gott” op. 65, no. 59 (for organ)

January 2 – Iberia, Book 3, by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) was first performed in Paris, France

January 23 – Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) died in New York, New York

January 26 – Symphony No. 2 in E minor, op. 27, by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

February 18 – Brigg Fair, An English Rhapsody, by Frederick Delius (1862-1934) was first performed in London, England

March 15Rapsodie espagnole, M. 54, by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was first performed in Paris, France

May 15 – Lars-Erik Larsson (1908-1986) was born in Åkarp, Sweden

June 21 – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) died near Luga, Leningrad Oblast, Russia

June 29 – Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts

September 20 – Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908) died in Biarritz, France

October 18 – Drapa, op. 27, for Large Orchestra by Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960) was first performed in Stockholm, Sweden

October 19 – Geirr Tveitt (1908-1981) was born in Bergen, Norway

November 19 – Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur (1908-2002) was born in Paris, France

December 10 – Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) was born in Avignon, France

1909
January 9Gaspard de la nuit, M. 55, by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was first performed in Paris, France

February 9 – Iberia, Book 4, by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) was first performed in Paris, France

February 21 – The Enchanted Lake, op. 62, by Anatoly Lyadov (1855-1914) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

February 22In the Fen Country, tone poem by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was first performed in London, England

May 1 – Isle of the Dead in A minor, op. 29, symphonic poem by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

May 1 – George Melachrino (1909-1965) was born in London, England

May 18 – Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) died in Cambo-les-Bains, France

June 23 – Clive Richardson (1909-1998) was born in Paris, France

October 7Le Coq d’Or, opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was first performed in Moscow, Russia

November 28 – Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, op. 30, by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was first performed in New York, New York

December 12Kikimora, op. 63, tone poem by Anatoly Lyadov (1855-1914) was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia

December 15 – Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) died in Barcelona, Spain

December 18 – Octet for Double String Quartet in C major, op. 7, by George Enescu (1881-1955) was first performed in Paris, France

1890s

1910s

Sibelius Violin Concerto

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) aspired to be a virtuoso violinist, but abandoned that career because he felt that he had begun his “training for the exacting career of a virtuoso too late.” But it must have been some consolation that his violin concerto of 1904/1905—his only concerto—is one of the most inspired works of that genre in the repertoire.

There are many fine recordings of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, but one I am especially fond of is a 1951 recording with Isaac Stern and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.

Here’s the conclusion of the work, nicely illustrating the passion and energy of this performance by Stern and Beecham’s Royal Philharmonic despite the primitive recording technology available at the time. Just goes to show that there were some remarkable recordings made more than 70 years ago!

Conclusion of the 1951 recording of Isaac Stern playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham, conducting

While we’re on the topic of violin concertos, here are the best I’ve heard, in chronological order of their composition. Seek them out and enjoy!

Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 – Johann Sebastian Bach (c. 1730)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61 – Ludwig van Beethoven (1806)

Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64 – Felix Mendelssohn (1844)

Violin Concerto No. 8 in D major, op. 99 – Charles-Auguste de Bériot (c. 1845)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, op. 26 – Max Bruch (1867)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77 – Johannes Brahms (1878)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 – Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1878)

Violin Concerto in A minor, op. 53 – Antonín Dvořák (1879)

Violin Concerto in D minor, op. 47 – Jean Sibelius (1905)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, op. 19 – Sergei Prokofiev (1917)

Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 63 – Sergei Prokofiev (1935)

Violin Concerto, op. 14 – Samuel Barber (1939)

Violin Concerto in D minor – Aram Khachaturian (1940)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 – Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1945)

Violin Concerto in C major, op. 48 – Dmitry Kabalevsky (1948)

And, outstanding violin concerto movements:

Intermezzo (Poco adagio) [2nd & final movement] from Violin Concerto, op. 33 – Carl Nielsen (1911)

Sicilienne (Andantino) [2nd movement] from Concierto de estío, for violin and orchestra – Joaquín Rodrigo (1943)

Curious as to why so many violin concertos are written in the key of D major? I was.

“D major is well-suited to violin music because of the structure of the instrument, which is tuned G D A E. The open strings resonate sympathetically with the D string, producing a sound that is especially brilliant. This is also the case with all other orchestral strings.” – Wikipedia entry for D major

Joaquín Rodrigo: The (Almost) Complete Music for Piano

Recently, I wrote about the extraordinary orchestral music of 20th-century Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999). In that piece, I lauded a collection of Rodrigo’s orchestral work, all conducted by the esteemed Mexican conductor Enrique Bátiz with three different orchestras. Today, I would like to share with you the best and most complete recordings of Rodrigo’s piano music, a two-disc set by Gregory Allen and Anton Nel (two piano and piano four hands works).

I wish other music CDs had as much detail about each of the pieces as the enclosed booklet by Gregory Allen and Linton Powell has, nicely indexed by CD track in the margins of the narrative. They write: “The present recordings represent the first complete collection of Rodrigo’s original piano music for two and four hands, omitting only a few transcriptions and lost early works.” In a footnote, they detail the works that are excluded. I am familiar with only one of these, the Cinco piezas del siglo XVI of 1937, which is worth seeking out.

At the end of the documentary Shadows and Light, made when Rodrigo was 90, there is a spellbinding performance of Zarabanda lejana (Distant Sarabande) of 1926. I’m pretty sure the recording they used was the one on these discs. The tempo and sensitivity of this performance is perfect. I have another recording that seems rushed by comparison, and it ruins the mood.

Here we have 2 hours and 33 minutes of delightful piano music composed by Joaquín Rodrigo, sure to increase your appreciation for this great 20th-century composer. Of course, I have a number of favorites.

  • Zarabanda lejana (Distant Sarabande)
  • Cinco piezas infantiles (Five children’s pieces), for two pianos
  • Sonatina para dos Muñecas (Sonatina for two Puppets), for piano four hands
  • Gran Marcha de los Subsecretarios (Grand March of the Subsecretaries), for piano four hands
  • Atardecer (Dusk), for piano four hands
  • À l’ombre de Torre Bermeja (In the Shadow of the Crimson Tower)
  • Plegaria de la Infanta de Castilla (Prayer of the Princess of Castile), from Cuatro piezas para piano

If you need any more convincing that this recording is a “must have”, here are words written by Joaquín Rodrigo himself.

“Gregory Allen’s recording of my works for piano is excellent. His magnificent technique and his authentically fine interpretation satisfy me completely.”

—Joaquín Rodrigo, Madrid, 1991

The Extraordinary Music of Joaquín Rodrigo

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)

Joaquín Rodrigo was born in Sagunto, Valencia, Spain on November 22, 1901. At the age of three, a diphtheria epidemic ravaged his community and he was not spared. His eyes were damaged and he soon lost his eyesight. Despite his blindness, he went on to become Spain’s greatest composer of the 20th century. After immersing myself in his music for the past several weeks, this avid music listener would like to suggest that Joaquín Rodrigo was one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. I believe his acclaim has not yet reached its peak, and that many of his works that to the present day have seldom been played will soon become part of the standard repertory.

Rodrigo is primarily known for his wonderful guitar concertos: Concierto de Aranjuez (1939), Fantasía para un gentilhombre (1954), Concierto Madrigal (1966), and Concierto Andaluz (1967), but have you heard his purely orchestral work A la busca del más allá (In search of the beyond)? Or his piano version of Zarabanda lejana?

There is no better introduction to the music of Joaquín Rodrigo than the four-CD set from EMI Classics, The Rodrigo Edition. One of the foremost interpreters of Rodrigo, Mexican conductor Enrique Bátiz skillfully conducts the London Symphony Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in these completely satisfying performances.

EMI Classics CZS 7 67435 2
EMI Classics CZS 7 67435 2

Joaquín Rodrigo died in 1999 at the age of 97. When he was 90, a loving and insightful documentary was produced, titled Shadows and Light. Please seek it out! It is well produced and inspiring. You can view this documentary on medici.tv (much of it is in English, but for the parts that aren’t you have the option to select English subtitles), or purchase the DVD through Amazon.