Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited
by Fred Flaxman

©2015 by Fred Flaxman

Program 243
"Best Music of 1915, Part 1"

MUSIC: Ponce: excerpt from beginning of Balada Mexicana, performed by pianist Jorge Federico Osario with the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra conducted by Enrique Bátiz [ASV CD DCA 926,Track 6]  [under the following]

Hello and welcome to the “Best Music of 1915, Part One” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m Fred Flaxman.

When I look back a hundred years or so to 1915, I find that some very beautiful classical music was written in that year. In fact, so much, that I could not possibly fit all my favorites into one hour. So this first part will include music by a Mexican composer, Manuel Ponce… a German composer, Siegfried Wagner… a Hungarian composer, Béla Bartók… and an English composer, Albert  Ketčlbey.

“The Best Music of 1915, Part Two” will be devoted to a single Spanish composer, Manuel de Falla, who wrote two of his best orchestral pieces that year: Noches en los jardines de Espańa / Nights in the Gardens of Spain and El amor brujo / Love, the Magician.

MUSIC: Fades out

Other notable classical music was composed in 1915, but, in my book at least, it doesn’t deserve the “Best of the Year” designation. Included in that group are Three Pieces for Orchestra by Alban Berg… Adventures in a Perambulator by John Alden Carpenter, which was first performed that year… Études for solo piano by Claude Debussy… Scythian Suite by Sergei Prokofiev… and An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss.

Let’s start with one of Béla Bartók’s best-known and loved pieces, his Romanian Folk Dances. As a student of folk music, Bartók  focused on tunes of Hungarian origin. Nevertheless, from the time he began his ethno-musicological research in 1906, he was also interested in the songs of the Slovak and Romanian peasants. The songs of the Romanian peasants of the province of Transylvania particularly interested him because that was a region that remained relatively isolated from the contamination of written urban popular songs.

Between 1909 and 1917 Bartók made no fewer than 3,400 phonographic recordings on wax cylinders of Romanian tunes. Between 1910 and 1915 he wrote piano works that were entirely based on these tunes, including a sonata and three collections of short pieces.

One of these collections dates from 1915 and cites actual melodies played on violins and flutes by shepherds.

Several transcriptions of these pieces have been made, including one by Bartók, for chamber orchestra and winds. The orchestration in this recording is by Jean-Marie Zeitouni, and in this ATMA Classique recording he conducts the French-Canadian chamber orchestra called Les Violons du Roy.

MUSIC: Bartók: Danses Populaires Roumaines, SZ 56, performed by Les Violons du Roy conducted by Jean-Marie Zeitouni [ATMA Classique ACD2 2576, Tracks 8-12] [8:00]

Béla Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, performed by Les Violons du Roy conducted by Jean-Marie Zeitouni, who also orchestrated the work.

When I was researching what music was written in the year 1915 for this program, I came across the Violin Concerto by Siegfried Wagner. This was a compact discovery for me, only a century after it was written. What a beautiful piece!

Siegfried Richard Wagner, nicknamed "Fidi," was born in 1869 to Richard Wagner and his future wife Cosima, at Tribschen on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. Through his mother, he was a grandson of Franz Liszt, from whom he received some instruction in harmony.

After he completed his secondary education in 1889, he studied with Wagner's pupil Engelbert Humperdinck, but was more strongly drawn to a career as an architect, and studied architecture.

In 1892 he undertook a trip to Asia with a friend, the English composer Clement Harris. During the voyage he decided to abandon architecture and commit himself to music.

In the end, Siegfried Wagner composed 18 operas — more than the 13 completed by his father — but none have entered the standard repertory.

Siegfried made his conducting debut as an assistant conductor at Bayreuth in 1894; in 1896 he became associate conductor. In 1908 he took over as Artistic Director of the Bayreuth Festival in succession to his mother, Cosima.

The Wagner family found it suitable to arrange a marriage for Siegfried with a 17-year-old Englishwoman, Winifred Klindworth, and at the Bayreuth festival of 1914 she was introduced to the then-45-year-old Wagner. The two married in 1915, and the couple had four children.

Siegfried Wagner died in Bayreuth in 1930. He outlived his mother by only four months. Since his two sons were still only adolescents, he was succeeded at the helm of the festival by his wife, Winifred.

In this 1996 CPO recording of Siegfried Wagner’s Violin Concerto, the soloist is Ulf Hoelscher. Werner Andreas Albert conducts the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz.

MUSIC: Siegfried Wagner: Violin Concerto, performed by Ulf Hoelscher. violin, with Werner Andreas Albert conducting the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz [CPO 999427-2, Track 1]  [24:28]

Siegfried Wagner’s Violin Concerto. Ulf Hoelscher was the soloist. Werner Andreas Albert conducted the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz.

You are listening to an hour devoted to “The Best Music of 1915, Part One” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]

The Mexican composer, Manuel Ponce, who lived from 1882 until 1948, was a romantic who was just as attached to France as to Mexico. He was influenced by Mexican songs and by the style of his teacher, the French composer, Paul Dukas. This is especially true of his Balada Mexicana / Mexican Ballad. The pianist in this ASV Digital recording from 1995 is Jorge Federico Osorio, who was born in Mexico and studied at the conservatories in his native country, Paris, and Moscow. The State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Enrique Bátiz.

MUSIC: Ponce: Balada Mexicana, performed by pianist Jorge Federico Osorio with the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra conducted by Enrique Bátiz [ASV CD DCA 926, Track 6]  [11:25]

Manuel Ponce’s Balada Mexicana / Mexican Ballad. Jorge Federico Osorio was the pianist with the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra conducted by Enrique Bátiz.

Our final work on this hour of Compact Discoveries devoted to the “Best Music of 1915” is by an English composer, Albert W. Ketčlbey. He lived from 1875 until 1959.

Ketčlbey was born in Birmingham, the son of an engraver. He wrote a piano sonata at the age of 11 which impressed Edward Elgar, and gained a scholarship to the Trinity College of Music in London. He showed a talent for playing various orchestral instruments. And this talent was reflected in his mastery of colorful orchestration, especially when it showed the oriental inspiration that became his trademark.

He became famous for composing popular light music. Some of this was used as accompaniments for silent films. Ketčlbey was also music editor of some well-known publishing houses, and for more than 20 years he served as music director of the Columbia Graphophone Company, where over 600 recordings were issued with him conducting. The Columbia Graphophone Company was one of the earliest gramophone companies. It later became Columbia Records and then a part of EMI recordings.

Ketčlbey’s piece, In a Monastery Garden, was composed in 1915 after a visit to a real monastery garden. It was a huge success at the time, selling over a million recordings, and making Ketčlbey not only well-known, but wealthy. Here it is performed on a 1981 recording by the London Promenade Orchestra and the Ambrosian Chorus conducted by Alexander Faris.

MUSIC: Ketčlbey: In a Monastery Garden, performed by the London Promenade Orchestra and Ambrosian Chorus conducted by Alexander Faris [MHS 11165F, Track 2]  [5:29]

Albert Ketčlbey’s In a Monastery Garden, performed by the London Promenade Orchestra and Ambrosian Chorus conducted by Alexander Faris.

And that concludes this hour devoted to “The Best Music of 1915, Part One.” If you missed part of the program or would like to hear it again, you can stream it on demand at This is program number 243. And this is your guide to Compact Discoveries, Fred Flaxman, thanking you for listening.

MUSIC: Ponce: excerpt from beginning of Balada Mexicana, performed by pianist Jorge Federico Osario with the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra conducted by Enrique Bátiz [ASV CD DCA 926,Track 6]

ANNOUNCER (Tana Flaxman): Production of Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida... and by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz…  Art and Eva Stevens... Shelley and Gilbert Harrison… the CD companies that supply the recordings used…  and  the online store for classical music CDs, DVDs, downloads, and over 10,000 on-demand reissued titles. Broadcast of the programs by public radio stations is made possible by listeners who contribute to those stations. Streaming-on-demand is made possible by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

Program Ends at 59:00