1905 in Music

Music reviews of music published in 1905.

1. Claude Debussy: Images Book 1 (10/10)

The first book is an absolute classic of impressionism; if I tried to picture impressionism in my mind, I’m not sure I could do a better job than “Reflets dans l’eau,” which literally conjures its title in music. Aside from perhaps Satie at his most impressionist, I’m not sure anyone had done anything like this yet. (And honestly, I cannot remember what Satie had done by this point.)

The other two pieces, though less famous, as no less impressionistic, though “Hommage à Rameau” occasionally tricks you into thinking you are listening to something more conventional.

2. Claude Debussy: Suite bergamasque (10/10)

Note: this was originally composed in 1890 but not published until 1905, when it was revised to an unknown extent.

This suite contains my favourite Debussy piece and the one that introduced me to his music, at an age far before I was aware of the vast majority of “classical” music – “Clair De Lune.” I cannot be objective about it – to me it is one of the masterpieces for piano from the end of the 19th century or early 20th century. It caries me away to some other place.

The other three pieces are all well and good but they pale in comparison for me. That’s not fair at all, but I have a hard time listening to this whole thing as a suite simply because I have heard one part of it hundreds of times and the other three pieces only 4 or 5.

3. Leos Janacek: 1.X.1905 ‘From the Street’ (9/10)

Janacek’s lone piano sonata is one of my favourite pieces of his, despite its brevity and his apparent disdain for it (he threw out the second half). It’s the kind of thing he does really well, making sophisticated music that sounds really modern despite his adherence to tradition.

4. Gabriel Faure: Barcarole No. 7 in D minor, Op. 90 (7/10)

This one sounds like a classic Faure piece to my ears, containing a lot of his trademarks (as far as I can tell) and generally sounding utterly unlike his early works in this genre.

5. Gustav Holst: “A Song of the Night” Op. 19 (8/10)

“A Song of the Night” is like a mini violin concerto. It’s a decent piece for violin. The orchestral accompaniment is really subtle until about half way through and, even then, it’s quite understated until about the 5 minute mark.

Nice stuff.

6. Leos Janacek: On an Overgrown Path [Book 1] (8/10)

Note: Though officially published in 1911 I have chosen to include these pieces here because they were first performed publicly in 1905.

The first book of On an Overgrown Path is a pleasing set of late Romantic pieces that are not quite Janacek at his most radical. They’re still quite enjoyable but not my favourite of his work.

7. Edward Elgar: Introduction and Allegro (7/10)

The Introduction and Allegro is very Elgarian and just not my thing. There was so much more interesting music being made at the time. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just very traditional and full of Elgarian sweep (for lack of better phrase). I get that it’s a challenging piece for the performers and I get that a lot of people like it – and it’s very pleasant – but it’s kind of boring.

Later, I wrote this:

Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings is another thing I have heard somewhere. Like so much of his music, it is pleasant and well-done, but it pales in comparison to the work of his continental contemporaries, or even to Vaughan Williams at his best. The more I listen to Elgar, the more I become convinced, that he has a few works that we can deem canonical – Falstaff in particular – but that most of his music is good or very good, but not great.

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