Explore key works of early 20th-century classical music and discover the social, political and cultural contexts in which they were written. Featured composers include Berg, Britten, Delius, Elgar, Holst, Ravel, Schoenberg, Smyth, Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams and Webern. Enjoy digitised treasures from our collections, sound recordings, and newly-commissioned articles.


Second Viennese School

The Second Viennese School: Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern

Mark Berry introduces the three composers labelled as key members of the ‘Second Viennese School’, each influential in his own way on musical modernism throughout the remainder of the 20th century.

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Sketch of Frederick Delius' Late Swallows

Delius in performance

Joanna Bullivant explores how Delius’s compositions were brought to life by various interpreters. Did he give his performers enough information and how important are the contributions made by the famous musicians with whom he worked?

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Music and the Creative Process

Music and the creative process: Elgar’s Third Symphony

The composer Anthony Payne, who completed Elgar’s unfinished Third Symphony, describes Elgar’s compositional methods as seen in the surviving sketches for this work at the British Library.

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Music and the Russian Revolution

Music and the Russian Revolution

Pauline Fairclough discusses the impact of the Russian Revolution on Russian composers’ lives and careers.

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Explore key themes in early 20th-century classical music

Creative process

Find out how sketches, drafts, proofs and annotations can reveal the inner workings of a composer's mind

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Music and place theme

Music and place

Learn more about the impact of nationalism, folksong and a sense of place on classical music since 1900

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Music for stage and screen theme

Music for stage and screen

Learn more about the collaboration between composers and other artists in the creation of works for stage and screen

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Music politics and society theme

Music, politics and society

Discover the impact of war, political unrest and social structures on music composed since 1900

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Discover key composers, performers and conductors of the early 20th century


Explore key musical works of the early 20th century


Created by: Alban Berg

Alban Berg’s opera Lulu is based on the plays Erdgeist (Earth Spirit) and Die Büchse der Pandora ...


Created by: Igor Stravinsky

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Stravinsky and his family were on one of their regular visits to ...

Brigg Fair

Created by: Frederick Delius

Brigg Fair: An English Rhapsody (composed 1907) is indebted to the work of Delius’s friend, fellow composer ...