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Classic FM Drive with John Brunning 4pm - 7pm
Explore the best jazz-inspired classical music from the Roaring Twenties and beyond.
When it comes to jazzy classical music, Gershwin's your guy. His Rhapsody in Blue from 1924 is one of the most famous examples of his unique style, from the boozy opening clarinet tune to the virtuosic piano solos throughout. It encapsulates the spirit of the Jazz Age - so much so, that Baz Lurhmann uses the piece to accompany the decadent party scene in his film adaptation of The Great Gatsby.
"The slow blues and the snappy number". That's how Copland described the two sections of his impressive Piano Concerto, and it sums up the 1926 piece pretty perfectly. It's the ultimate example of jazz-classical fusion, both indulgent and refined in equal measure.
Strolling through the streets of Paris in 1920s, this piece attempts to capture the sights and sounds of the city. Gershwin even brought back a few horns from Parisian taxis to add some authentic Parisian noise to the New York premiere.
Not an American in Paris, but a French composer in the US. Following a trip to the States in 1922, Darius Milhaud was captivated by authentic jazz on the streets of Harlem, and it had a profound impact on his musical style. Bluesy harmonies and stomping rhythms bring this 1923 ballet to life.
It could be that Shostakovich, composing in the depths of the disconnected USSR, hadn't really heard much New Orleans jazz, as he was limited by the Communists and writing for the government. This saccharine sweet music makes a great listen - if you're not expecting a relaxed swing beat or an effortless piano improvisation, that is.
Frivolous and lighthearted, Ibert's Divertissment is chock-full of unexpected rhythms, piano chords, and trumpets bursting from the texture. Listen out for the parody quotation of Mendelssohn's well-known Bridal March - just one of the music's many surprises.
These variations see Gershwin's hit song, I Got Rhythm, from the musical Girl Crazy, transformed into an impressive orchestral suite in a variety of styles. Even despite the changing influences and the virtuosic piano solo, the catchy tune is still easily recognisable.
Slurred violins, brash trombones, and a twinkling xylophone - surprisingly, despite its title, Shostakovich's Tahiti Trot is far more 'jazzy' than his Jazz Suites. It could well be because he didn't write the music himself… the piece is an orchestrated version of Tea for Two, from the musical No, No, Nannette by Vincent Youmans.
Stravinsky proved himself in the field of angular tunes and stabbing rhythms in his 1910 ballet, The Firebird. It was only a matter of time before the quirky rag-time dance got its own treatment by the composer, and the results are remarkable - it's jazzy and jarring all at once, with a menacing sense of fun.
European swing, American jazz, and opera. It's all there in Weill's 1928 opera, set, unexpectedly, in Victorian London. The opening song, The Ballad of Mackie Messer, translated into English as Mack the Knife, has now become a jazz standard in its own right.
Another beautifully introspective piano tune from Copland, this time in the form of his Four Piano Blues, published in 1949. It's calming piano music at its best, coloured by the occasional sultry jazz chord or a hint of a bluesy melody - with a quirky bouncing finale to round off the 8 minute piece.
George Antheil's Jazz Symphony could be the soundtrack to a comedy cartoon, thanks to its liberal use of percussion and slapstick piano tunes. But it's not all Tom and Jerry-style chaos; virtuosic piano solos provide moments of calm throughout the piece.
Capturing the spirit of New York City, Bernstein's On the Town tells the story of three American sailors on shore leave in the 40s. The Three Dance Episodes capture the swagger and vibrancy of the genre. Photo: Eva Rinaldi
Composed in 1945, Stravinsky described this piece as "a jazz concerto with a blues slow movement". It was premiered by famous American jazz clarinetist Woody Herman, who called it a "very delicate and a very sad piece".
The story's simple. An American composer tours Paris, and is so taken with the culture and music that he writes a piece. That's how the Piano Concerto in G was born, at least - Ravel encountered the fun and fashionable French jazz while he was travelling, and created this brilliantly punchy work in three movements.