1903 in Music

Music reviews for music published in 1903.


1. Erik Satie: 3 morceaux en forme de poire (10/10)

One of Satie’s early joke names (there are seven pieces), these are unrelated to each other which shows Satie breaking away from suite conventions. The music is all over the place, in terms of his early career, but that’s part of what makes it so original. Though these are still highly listenable he is breaking away from conventional basically completely.


2. Claude Debussy: Estampes (9/10)

I don’t want to get carried away but these pieces feel to me like pretty close to the pinnacle of the obsession of Romantic composers with “folk” sounds. Each piece is influenced by a different part of the world but the music manages to find that great place where it sounds both western and not, both of the tradition and not.

Really cool.


3. Maurice Ravel: String Quartet (9/10)

Ravel’s quartet is, to me, less impressive than Debussy’s. I always feel like when I compare Debussy and Ravel (and that’s not really fair) Ravel always suffers in comparison. Again, I don’t have the musicology background to articulate the “why” of my feelings about Ravel’s quartet being inferior to Debussy’s, it just sounds like it. That being said, it’s still a major quartet.


4. Gustav Holst: “Indra” Op. 13 (9/10)

This starts out bold (like so much of Holst’s work) then practically fades away to nothing, and then is at full strength again in just over a minute. It’s one of Holst’s most memorable pieces, for sure. And I think it’s probably among his very best works too, in spite of its catchiness. There’s a lot of dynamic tension here that isn’t always so successfully presented in other Holst works. A near-masterpiece.


5. Claude Debussy: D’un cahier d’esquisses (9/10)

This is a really deliberate, impressionistic piece that almost appears to fade out in the distance at times. It embodies much of what I like in Debussy’s more sedate material, as it careens from sounding like the pianist might be falling asleep to these great (relative) crescendos. Beautiful.


6. Edward Elgar: The Apostles (8/10)

This is, to my ears, quite superior to the follow-up, the Kingdom. The music is more interesting and compelling, and this is also a little shorter (I think). I still don’t know why someone would opt for this over, say, a Bach, but it’s well done decent enough.


7. Erik Satie: Je te veux (8/10)

I am commenting on the version without a singer, FYI, and apparently it’s longer than the most famous version with a voice part.

It’s really pretty; I don’t know what it would sound like with a singer but I can imagine it would be stirring. It feels perhaps a little too conventional for him at times, but it is pretty enough you don’t care.


8. Alexander Scriabin: Piano Sonata No. 4, Op. 30 (8/10)

Scriabin’s fourth sonata is significantly less radical than his 5th, though it is still an interesting and compelling piece. It’s also really, really short, which is too bad, because I like it.


9. Alexander Scriabin: Poem #1 in F-Sharp, Op. 32 (8/10)

Scriabin’s Poem #1 is a pretty piece that is significantly less radical to my ears than the music to come.


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