Are Too Many Early 20th Century Composers Being Ignored?

Scott Cantrell, Classical Music Writer for the Dallas Morning News, penned a thought-provoking article recently which suggested we are ignoring a large block of composers from the first half of the 20th century – composers which need to be heard.

As I write this, I am listening to the opening movement of Howard Hanson’s First Symphony.  It is lush, melodic, and quite listenable.  George Eastman, who invented the Kodak camera and founded of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y, asked Hanson to run the school, which he did for some 40 years.  He was a well known conductor and a huge proponent of new American music.  He was awarded both a Pulitzer Prize and a Peabody Award – and was the first American to win the coveted Prix de Rome. One of Eastman’s recital halls is named for Hanson, who wrote a large number of pieces beyond the Merry Mount Suite and 2nd Symphony which are most often heard.

I write this because concert programs which include lesser-known music by composers such as Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Frederick Delius, or Hanson, are concerts we might decide not to attend, simply because we don’t recognize the music.  In this day of instant access to so many performances at the click of a mouse, I am going to make a concerted effort to listen to these early 20th century composers which are often overshadowed, or simply ignored.  I’ll file a report from time to time and let you know what I find.

Read Lost generations of 20th-century American composers

Listen to Charles Tomlinson Griffes’ Piano Sonata

Listen to Winter Landscape by Frederick Delius

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