1883 in Music

Music reviews for music published in 1883.

1. Gabriel Faure: Élégie, Op. 24 (9/10)

Faure’s Elegy is totally out of place on the compilation I listened to it on, but it’s a strong piece that I feel is a classic for the instrument (cello).

2. Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90 (8/10)

  • Allegro con brio (F major, in sonata form)
  • Andante (C major, in a modified sonata form)
  • Poco allegretto (C minor, in ternary form A–B–A′)
  • Allegro — Un poco sostenuto (F minor → F major, in a modified sonata form)

Written and first performed in 1883, but revised a few times and published in 1884.

This is apparently one of Brahms’ most popular symphonies. I first listened to this symphony years ago, when I was listening to a fair amount of Brahms. But in the interim, not only have I not listened to Brahms in a while, I haven’t listened to composers of his era in rather a long time. and I must say my new first impression is that it is rather subtle at times, something that, I must confess, is not my favourite thing.

But it grows on me with time, and I understand, at some level, why it is popular, even if it does seem more traditional than most of the music I associate with this particular decade.

3. Gabriel Faure: Impromptu No. 3 in A-flat major, Op. 34 (8/10)

A much more compelling piece than the second impromptu, this sounds both more like Faure to my ears and also has more of what I like in piano music in general, especially when it slows down and sounds almost proto impressionistic.

4. Henri Duparc: “Testament” (8/10)

This is downright lively compared to some of Duparc’s music, with soaring high notes, a bit of a faster tempo, and cascading piano.

5. Leo Delibes: Lakme (7/10)

This is one of the “great” French operas. And right there we have a problem, at least for a music snob like me. French opera (with a few notable exceptions) feels like the forerunner of pop-music. They are so “big tune” oriented. They are easy to like more often than musically interesting. And I find myself feeling towards Lakme as I feel towards Carmen: meh. It’s fine and all, but it’s hardly changing what I think about French opera (like Debussy does, for example).

6. Henri Duparc: “Lamento” (7/10)

As you might expect from the title, this is a plodding piece in terms of tempo. But the mood is suitably funereal. It picks up at the end.

7. Gabriel Faure: Impromptu No. 2 in F minor, Op. 31 (6/10)

This is a jaunty piece which sounds very traditional to my ears – competing perhaps with the other showy Romantic piano pieces of the day. Not really my thing, though the playing is impressive. I do prefer the second movement.

8. Emmanuel Chabrier: España (6/10)

I have been spoiled by Ravel, but this doesn’t sound very Spanish to my ears. Maybe I lack the context, but I have a hard time associating the sounds in this piece with what I know of Spanish music or Spain more so than, say, France. It sounds like French music to me until the castanets come in. And they just feel like an accent.

9. Gabriel Faure: Mazurka in B-flat major, Op. 32 (7/10)

I don’t know enough about mazurkas to know whether or not this is a typical one, but what I do know is that this sounds decidedly not like a work by Faure until it slows down about 40 seconds in, and even then it feels like he is forcing his style into something it is not necessarily suited for.

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