1917-2017: A centennial to my favorite year in music

Hello all!

What a year 2017 has been! It's been quite a year of growth for B&H, and we are excited for all of the new prospects for the upcoming year. But before we say goodbye to 2017, I must acknowledge that this marks the centennial to my favorite year in music: 1917.

Of course many think, 1917? Aside from being in the midst of WWI, the Russian Revolution, and the White Sox winning the world series, what happened that would make it your favorite year in music??

Well my friends, get comfy and get ready to listen to some great music. I'm going to give you a countdown for B&H's top 5 pieces written in 1917, AND I'm going to countdown my own personal favorite pieces from 1917. Click any of the images or look below for the playlist(s) of all of these works on our YouTube channel. 


Top 5 works for violin and piano from 1917


Sibelius / 5 Pieces for violin and piano Op. 81  

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius is largely known for this symphonic writing and perhaps mostly for his violin concerto. However, he wrote many short pieces for a variety of instruments. These 5 pieces for violin and piano are super pleasing to listen to, romantic, and vary in style. 


Elgar / Sonata for Violin and Piano

Even though it was published in 1918, this work was mostly written in 1917. English composer Edward Elgar is probably most known for the graduation commencement pop tune: "Pomp and Circumstance". However, Elgar has quite a bit more tricks up his sleeve. This work is on our list for upcoming seasons, so start listening!


Respighi / Sonata for Violin and Piano in B minor

This sonata is definitely a favorite. It was actually on our list for this season's repertoire, but last minute changes postponed this work for next year. Italian composer Ottorino Respighi is definitely a favorite. If you don't know him, he has many orchestral suites painting the landscapes of Rome (Festa Romana, Pines of Rome, Fountains of Rome). You can even find his Pines of Rome on Disney's Fantasia 2000. Anyway, listen to this gorgeous work, and you'll be addicted....promise. 


Debussy / Sonata for violin and piano in G minor

Getting the silver is French composer Claude Debussy with his one and only violin and piano sonata in G minor. This work is tragically his last work. While trying to complete a group of 6 sonatas for different instruments, he was only able to complete 3: Sonata for Cello and Piano, Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, and the Sonata for Violin and Piano. Some popular works of Debussy: his orchestral suite La Mer, his string quartet, piano preludes, and of course Claire de Lune. You might remember this work was on our 2014-2015 season. We love this piece, and are already pondering when to bring it back.



Milhaud / Sonata No 2 for Violin and Piano

Coming in at #1 is a work from our 2015-2016 season. French composer Darius Milhaud (pronounced ME-YO) was a member of the Les Six group of composers in the 1920's. This sonata is an early work for Milhaud as it still paints an impressionistic landscape yet one can already hear his eclectic personality coming through. His travels to the U.S. and to Brazil will greatly shape his later compositions. Another fun fact: Dave Brubeck was his student!

Listen to our Top 5 playlist on our YouTube channel HERE!

E's Top 5 favorite pieces from 1917

Holst / The Planets

Just like everyone else, I completely light up at the beginning of Jupiter. This orchestral suite by English composer Gustav Holst is definitely his most popular work. This entire composition process was from 1914-1918. There are 7 movements representing Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. 

Rachmaninoff / Étude-Tableaux Op. 39 No. 8

Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff is a favorite among listeners and is surprisingly somewhat shunned within the academic world. His music is probably some of the most popular in the 'classical music' canon....EVER (i.e. Piano Concerto No 2, Piano Concert No 3, Prelude in C# minor, Symphonic Dances, Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini...just to name a few). The Études-Tableaux are 'study-pictures' where Rachmaninoff combines study with musical imagery. This étude in particular is a favorite. 


#3 TIE
Prokofiev / Violin Concerto No 1
Szymanowski / Violin Concerto No 1

Sergei Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev

Karol Szymanowski

Karol Szymanowski

Around this time period in general, the violin concerto got a serious facelift and became a medium that really expanded imagery, storytelling, and sound possibilities. Just to give you some more proof, listen to the violin concertos of Alban Berg, Samuel Barber, and Maurice Ravel's Tzigane. Tied at no. 3 are Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev and Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. Give these 2 violin concertos a listen. They both exemplify the writing of their respective composer, and really just suspend reality by helping the listener plunge into fantasy. 

Prokofiev / Vision Fugitives

One of my favorite piano suites (and favorite recording!), Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev takes 2nd place. These 20 short piano images are varied in style, tempo, and exude so much variety in sound and color. Be sure to listen to all of them, especially no. 8 :)

Ravel / Le Tombeau de Couperin

Taking no 1 is not only my favorite composer but also one of my favorite pieces...EVER. French composer Maurice Ravel is undoubtedly my favorite and this suite of 6 works was originally written for piano and later orchestrated by Ravel for orchestra. The title, "The Tomb of Couperin", is referencing Francois Couperin, the French Baroque harpsichordist. This is Ravel's contemporary nod to a man and his work who completely helped shape French music. The work is constructed just like a typical Baroque suite with dances from that period. Ravel also includes 2 forms that were developed in the Baroque period and that are specifically relevant to keyboard instruments: the fugue and the toccata. 

Listen to E's Top 5 HERE!


Happy listening and Happy New Year!