1888 in Music

My music reviews for music published in 1888.

Gymnopédies (10/10)

These are more famous than the Sarabandes in part, I believe, because they appear even more radical, given their brevity and their dissonance. This is music that I appreciate the radicalness of only in juxtaposition to what literally everyone else was writing at the time.  To me, a child of the late 20th century, they sound pleasant and the furthest thing from revolutionary. But my ear was raised in w world where these ideas were already long incorporated into music.

2. Richard Strauss: Violin Sonata in E-flat, op. 18 (8/10)

I am a fan of this kind of barely-contained ‘straining against tradition’ stuff almost as much as I am a fan of the ‘completely breaking with tradition’ stuff that I absolutely adore, and so I like this, and I wish I would get around to listening to more Strauss.

3. Claude Debussy: Arabesque No. 1. Andantino con moto (7/10)

This is a pretty piece but it is relatively traditional given Debussy’s later music (he was relatively young).

4. Emmanuel Chabrier: Suite Pastorale (7/10) [Four pieces from Pièces pittoresques but orchestrated)

When I was young, I didn’t care about whether a piece was original or an orchestrated adaptation. But I’ve come to prefer the original piano pieces to so many of these things, once I actually get to hear them. Orchestration appears to be an attempt to turn a profit, by making a piece or set fit for the symphony circuit.

It’s hard to imagine these pieces as piano pieces. Maybe that’s a good thing, as maybe Chabrier transformed his music enough when he orchestrated it. But I remain skeptical.

5. Leos Janacek: Idyll (7/10)

The ‘Idyll’ strikes me as slightly less idyllic than the earlier suite, at least in its opening movement. It’s the kind of piece that typifies Romantic music.  It’s certainly a nice thing, but it’s hardly revelatory.

6. Gabriel Faure, Andre Messager: “Souvenirs de Bayreuth” (7/10)

I barely know Wagner at all, so this parody is mostly lost on me but at least one of the themes is familiar and is pretty funny.

7. Alexander Glazunov: Slavonian Feast, op. 26 (6/10)

This is a very light piece that really does nothing for me at all. It may have been based on a string quartet of his, but that’s just a guess. Nothing doing.

8. Cesar Franck: “Psyche” (???/10)

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