The Art of Music in the 20th Century (Based on the Material of Choral Music)

Keywords: the art of music in the 20th century, 20th century music among the arts, 20th century choral music


The lectures on 20th century Russian music published in previous issues of our magazine were devoted to the work of such outstanding composers as Sergei Rachmaninoff, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Nikolai Myaskovsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Georgy Sviridov, Rodion Shchedrin and Alfred Schnittke. In the last of the published lectures brief sketches on the music of Sergei Slonimsky, Valery Gavrilin and Elena Gokhman were presented. Completing this cycle of lectures, we shall give a general overview of the art of music of the previous century, which is examined on the basis of choral music and in the successive evolutionary movement of three periods. The beginning of the 20th century (the period between the 1890s and the 1920s) was a time of both gradual and abrupt transition from classics to modernity. During these decades the classical arts went through a period of gradual fading. Modern art asserted itself in all sorts of forms of pivotal renewal of all aesthetic and technical foundations, which received its extreme expression in the phenomenon of avant-garde art. The middle of the century (from the 1930s to the 1950s) was in no small measure opposed to the attitudes of the beginning of the century. In this time period it was dominated by a desire for orderliness and balance, for clarity and intelligibility, to the extent that this was possible in the highly contradictory reality of the 20th century, which was accompanied by a clearing and enlightenment of the musical style, as well as a return to tradition. In turn, the second half of the century (from the 1960s to the 1980s) in many respects opposed itself to the previous period with the processes of rapid modernization of composers’ thinking, intense artistic exploration and unrestrained experimentation, which resulted in an extremely representative movement, which began to be called the second avant-garde (in contrast from the first or early avant-garde which emerged at the beginning of the century). A radical renewal of artistic matter found itself in the mass of all kinds of inventions and sound techniques. 

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