1901 in Music

List of music reviews for music published in 1901.


1. Paul Dukas: Piano Sonata in E-flat minor (9/10)

Some say the Sonata is the lesser of Dukas’ two most famous piano compositions. It is certainly the more Romantic, in its volume and its passion, and the general sense of hugeness one gets from listening to it. And the Variations really are fantastic.

But I think such a comparison under-sells the Sonata, which is a very different beast (and an earlier composition, by a little bit). It’s weird to me that this composition had a lot of admirers when it was published and first performed and then was mostly forgotten. It’s one of those late Romantic works that manages to be both challenging in its modernity but traditional enough to lull you in so that you don’t think you are hearing something boundary-pushing. This seems to be, with my limited knowledge of Dukas, to be a Dukas specialty. (As well, it must be said, as a hallmark of the music of the era). Yes, the Sonata is over-the-top, but so much Romantic music is. It has all these little unconventionalities that sound like they are from other eras (including the future) or from other genres of music not normally accessed in piano sonatas.

Honestly, I think it’s great.


2. Frederick Delius: “A Walk to the Paradise Garden” (7/10)

This is actually an excerpt from his opera that has been performed on its own because of its popularity. I understand why. It has an immense, lush sound that conjures romance with just a little bit of tension. It’s not really my thing (and I generally hate excerpts) but I appreciate the craft even if I would prefer to listen to the whole opera to see how that is. (I don’t know that I actually want to listen to a Delius opera on the other hand…)


3. Erik Satie: Le poisson rêveur (7/10)

Well, this is a jaunty thing compared to a lot of what he was writing around this time. Almost conservative for him except in those trills that almost sound like mistakes. Not his best work, for sure, but still interesting.


4. Claude Debussy: Pour le piano (7/10)

This is a minor piece that is still (seemingly) technically difficult and kind of fun. It’s pretty damn showy and not really much more than a way for the pianist to show off various skills (in my completely uninformed opinion) but it at least commits fully to that.