1900 in Music

List of music reviews I wrote for music published in 1900.

1. Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39 [Revised version] (9/10)

Sibelius’ first symphony features an instantly memorable crescendo less than half way through the opening movement and there are more that follow it up. There are also a series of solos, almost like teeny tiny concerti or something.

This symphony is regularly regarded as immature or a little too devoted to Tchaikovsky (or Bruckner, or whomever). But I really like its high Romantic grandeur and epicness.

2. Edward Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius (8/10)

I wouldn’t want my poor ears truly tested – blindly for example – but I feel like I am more and more hearing Elgar in Elgar: this piece is just so Elgar.

In this case though, it’s not a bad thing. I feel like this is markedly superior to the other oratorios and I think it’s quite possibly the best thing I’ve heard of his outside of “Falstaff.”

For once (well, really twice) I feel like the music lives up to its reputation.

3. Alexander Glazunov: The Seasons (8/10)

The Seasons is a pretty great ballet (well, I am making an assumption about the choreography) that is helped by the fact that it predates the great, revolutionary ballets of the early 20th century. This music is absolutely Romantic, one might even call it unapologetically Romantic, but that is looking at this whole thing with a great deal of hindsight, as arguably Romantic music wasn’t quite killed off as something significant until the end of the decade (at the very earliest). I don’t know my ballets at all, but it’s a nice piece. It’s certainly not among my favourite Romantic compositions (or even among my favourite Russian Romantic compositions), but I see the appeal, I really do.

4. Erik Satie: Reverie du Pauvre (8/10)

“Reverie” is right – slow and indefinable like a dream-state. It’s hard to put your finger on this one, for sure.

5. Gustav Holst: Symphony in F Major, Op. 8 ‘The Cotswolds’ (7/10)

The ‘Cotswolds’ symphony intrigued me because I heard an excerpt from it on another collection (the elegy, to be precise). It’s a nice late Romantic symphony. Like so much other British work, it fails utterly to be revolutionary, but at least it’s pleasant. I think the elegy is the highlight of the work, which is slightly disappointing.

6. Alexander Glazunov: Chant du Menestrei in D major for cello and orchestra, op. 71? (7/10)

The “Chant du Menestrei” was evidently originally written for just piano and cello. This orchestrated version of the piece is very pretty and pleasant, if slight.

7. Erik Satie: Verset laïque & somptueux (7/10)

Another really dreamy piece, where Satie seems to be approaching modern ambient and creating music that is barely there.

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