The Influence Of Jazz On 20th Century Classical Music
Some may think that classical music is a rarified and esoteric kind of music , aloof, elitist, standoffish , and far removed from "normal" music and the real world . But this is a myth . Composers have been using elements of vernacular music for centuries ; composers such as Bach , Mozart , Haydn and Beethoven often used the popular tunes of their day , and the music of the great Russian and Czech composer , for example , is strongly influenced by the traditional folk music of those nations . In addition , many of the melodies of these composers became popular hits on their own .
And in the early 20th century , a number of prominent European and American composers became intensely interested in Jazz and Ragtime , and wrote works attempting a fusion between Jazz and classical . Maurice Ravel , Igor Stravinsky , Darius Milhaud , and Ernst Krenek were among the most notable , and America's own George Gershwin , Aaron Copland , Leonard Bernstein and Gunther Schuller also came under the influence of the Jazz tradition .
Stravinsky wrote a kind of Ragtime piece before he had even visited America , and Ravel and Milhaud spent time in Harlem Jazz clubs soaking in and absroprbing the influence of Jazz . You can hear Jazz inflections in Ravel's "Piano concerto in G", and Milhaud's ballet score "La Creation Du Monde", (The creation of the world), and Stravinsky's so-called "Ebony Concerto" for clarinet and instrumental ensemble .
And of course, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" is world famous, and was premiered by the once famous Jazz muisician Paul Whiteman and his band . Aaron Copland's piano concerto is also Jazz-influenced , and Leonard Bernstein wrote a work with the curious title "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs", a title which sounds like a Bach work combined with Jazz , as in the famous preludes and fugues of the "Well Tempred Clavier".
The Austrian composer Ernst Krenek (1900 -1991), although he later adopted the austere 12 tone idiom created by Schoenberg , as a young man in his 20s wrote a once popular Jazz-influenced opera called "Jonny Spielt Auf " (Jonny Strikes Up) , about an African -American Jazz musician living and working in Europe called Jonny who gets involved with the theft of a precious violin and all manner of intrigues . It ends with Jonny, on top of a globe on stage , celebrating the triumph of Jazz taking over Europe .
Tis opera was all the rage in Europe in the 20s until the Nazis took over and banned it as"degenerate music" . It was even performed at the Metropolitan Opera . But it fell out of favor until recent revivals , and was recorded in the 90s as part of Decca record's fascinating project to record the "degenerate music" banned by the Nazis . I have that CD , and it's quite interesting , although it's not currently available as far as I can tell . But it and the whole series is well-worth hearing .
And many prominent Jazz musicians have also been interested in the tradition of European classical music , and were influenced by it such as Miles Davis , Bill Evans and others . Duke Ellington was very interested in classical music and knew a great deal about it .
This goes to show you that far from being a dated and stodgy art form , classical music has constantly evolved the times , and continues to due so in the present day .