The Best of 1920s Classical Music
A comprehensive list of the best classical music from the 1920s. Discover new composers and works, or rediscover favorites from the past.
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. He wrote most of his best-known works in the 1920s, including the orchestral compositions Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris, the collaborations with his brother Ira Gershwin on the songs Swanee and Fascinating Rhythm, and the opera Porgy and Bess.
Rhapsody in Blue
Rhapsody in Blue is a 1924 composition by American composer George Gershwin for solo piano and jazz band, which combines elements of classical music with jazz-inspired effects. The work was commissioned by bandleader Paul Whiteman and debuted in Whiteman’s An American in Paris concert held on February 12, 1924, at Aeolian Hall in New York City.
The 25-minute work explores various moods from melancholic to exuberant. It is one of the most popular and enduring works of American symphonic music, and has been recorded many times. Although it was not Gershwin’s first piece to successfully employ classical music techniques or influence (for example, his 1921 one-act opera Blue Monday), Rhapsody in Blue is perhaps the best-known work to result from this blending of styles, and helped catapult Gershwin to fame as a serious composer.
An American in Paris
George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” is one of the most famous pieces of music from the 1920s. It was originally composed as a piano solo, but was later orchestrated for orchestra. The piece is known for its use of Jazz and popular music elements, as well as its general ” upbeat” feel.
Many say that Leonard Bernstein was the best composer of the 20th century. While that may be up for debate, there’s no doubt that Bernstein was one of the most influential and important American classical music composers of his time. In this article, we’ll explore some of Bernstein’s best work from the 1920s.
West Side Story
West Side Story is a musical with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It was inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. The story is set in the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City in the mid-1950s, an ethnic, blue-collar neighborhood (in the early stages of gentrification) charged with gang warfare and racial tensions.
On the Town
On the Town is a musical with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden. It is based on the 1944Jerome Robbins ballet Fancy Free, about three sailors on shore leave in New York City. The musicalintroduced several popular and classic songs, including “New York, New York”, “Lonely Town”, “I Can Cook Too”, and “Some Other Time”.
The story centers on three sailors – Gabey, Chip, and Ozzie – who are on a 24-hour shore leave in New York City during World War II. They each meet a young woman – Ivy Smith, Miss Turnstiles (June Taylor), and Claire De Loone respectively – with whom they fall in love; but their time ashore is limited, so each sailor must choose between a night of romance and returning to his ship.
It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) is a 1931 composition by Duke Ellington originally recorded for theVictor label. One of the first examples of jazz standardization, it has been recorded by numerous artists including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, and Lester Young. The original recording featured Ivie Anderson on vocals.
The song became one of the most popular compositions from the Duke Ellington orchestra and helped to propel the Swing Era into full swing. It also helped to establish Ellington as one of the preeminent songwriters and bandleaders of his day. The composition has been described as “the most perfect distillation of the new genre known as swing music.”
“Mood Indigo” is a 1930 composition by Duke Ellington. It is notable for its “blue” chord, which is a major triad with a flat fifth (the third note lowered one half-step). It also features an opening two-bar minor blues riff.
The tune became one of the best known of Ellington’s compositions and was recorded many times. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1993.
Other recordings were made by Coleman Hawkins, Buck Clayton, Miles Davis, Count Basie, Al Jolson, Fats Waller, Nat King Cole, Diana Krall, and Louis Armstrong.
While many people think of the best of 1920s classical music as being that of George Gershwin or Cole Porter, there were other great composers who wrote during that time as well. One such composer was Sergei Prokofiev.
Cole Porter was one of the most successful songwriters of the 1920s and 1930s. His songs were known for their clever lyrics and catchy melodies. Many of his songs were made into successful Broadway musicals, including “Anything Goes” and “Kiss Me, Kate.” Porter’s music was popular with both critics and audiences, and he helped define the sound of American popular music for generations to come.
I Get a Kick Out of You
I get no kick from champagne
Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you
Some like the waft of a fine cigar
Others might fancy a dram
But I know what I’m wishing for
I get a kick out of you