Monday, December 6, 2010

Jazz Inspired Piano Compositions

Decades before jazz became ambitious and sophisticated stream of music for connoisseurs, when it was still a dance style strongly linked with night life and casinos, some composers pay attention to possibilities of improvisation as a medium forming an expression. One of greatest composers, Maurice Ravel was under great impression of technical and artistic possibilities he found in new dance music. In 1975 the leading Czech label Supraphon published the double album of piano music influenced by jazz. The collection of works by nine composers in interpretations of five pianists was a kind of the homage to inspiring power of early jazz music. Program of this album has been recorded in performances by Peter Toperczer, Jan Vrána, Emil Leichner, Jan Marcol and Miloš Mikula.

Jazz Inspired Piano Compositions

The French composers took place on the opening of this collection. Claude Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk (No. 6 from Children’s Corner Suite) is well known as semi-popular piece. In context of popular European dance music remain two cycles: Eric Satie’s Jack in the Box and Georges Auric’s foxtrot Adieu, New York! Also the cycle of Jazz Piano Preludes by George Gershwin, though it is still deep-rooted in romantic ideas, gives quite new glance to the bounds of early 20th century concert music with the jazz. In style of French composers remains works by Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff. And he is the only author presented by two cycles: Esquisses de jazz and Rag Music
Connecting to ideas draw from jazz music gave hope of reviving music in times of anti-romantic breakthrough. Almost ideal example is Suite “1922” op. 26 by Paul Hindemith. Interesting solution of creative dilemmas is the cycle Four Piano Blues by Aaron Copland. It has been based on a few idiomatic motifs, thus harmonic language is free of function tensions. Connection with blues in title of Copland’s cycle refers to emotional contents and characteristics of this style. Modern in style and in formal foundations are also Préludes by Bohuslav Martinů and American Suite for Two Pianos by Emil František Burian. These two Czech composers are closer to after-war jazz and third-stream experiments.

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