1908 in Music

Music reviews I wrote for music published in 1908.

1. Gabriel Faure: Nocturne No. 10 in E minor, Op. 99 (10/10)

Much more strident to start than the 9th, the 10th still has qualities that create impressions rather than awe. As it progresses, there’s almost a sound of confusion in the notes, as if the pianist isn’t sure which notes to play. That’s really cool.

2. Gabriel Faure: Nocturne No. 9 in B minor, Op. 97 (9/10)

Much more impressionistic than the 8th, the 9th is the kind of piece I associate with the music of the era, drifting in terms of volume and (apparent) tempo, conjuring feelings and memories rather than awing with prowess. (Though I bet it’s hard to play!)

3. Claude Debussy: Children’s Corner (8/10)

I don’t get the musical joke of the first of these pieces, as I was born in a different time, to non-musical parents, but these pieces are sometimes difficult, impressionistic pieces not meant for a child to play. (Listen to them; only prodigies are playing these at young ages.) Perhaps it’s the association with children, but I find them less compelling than the Images, even though they are still interesting and full of the stuff that makes Debussy so great (rapid changes in tempo and volume, surprising new melodies, etc)

4. Edward Elgar: Symphony No. 1 in A major, Op. 55 (7/10)

The first symphony is the kind of thing I can like if I turn my brain off, as it’s full of pleasing musical passages of the kind found in so much High Romantic music. I really like this stuff in general, as there’s something about lush orchestration played with feeling that really appeals to me.

It is also unique, apparently, as it’s the only symphony in A Flat which is still performed. (I don’t know how true that actually is.)

But this is an inherently conservative work that pales in comparison to what Mahler or even the Scandinavians were doing at the same time.

5. Erik Satie: 12 Petits Chorals (7/10)

These are the briefest of pieces, titled inexplicably like so much of his music, that basically lay out their theme and then end. This is his process taken to new extremes.

6. Gustav Holst: “Hymns from the Rig Veda” (7/10)

The “Vedic Hymns” are a little disappointing, I must say. I sort of anticipated heavily Indian-influenced Romantic music. But rather, it’s kind of vaguely impressionist lieder settings of Sanskrit hymns, which are apparently fundamental to Hinduism. It would be far more awesome if Holst had taken inspiration from the Indian music, not just the lyrics.

It’s fine music, it’s just not anything that I’m going to get really excited about.

7. Frederick Delius: “In a Summer Garden” (7/10)

This fantasy is very typical of Delius. It’s got may be a little more energy than some of his more idyllic tone poems, but it is almost insufferably pleasant. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just not my thing and it doesn’t help that I have listened to it part way through a comp which is just an onslaught of this stuff.

8. Erik Satie: Aperçus désagréables (7/10)

The rare Satie piece for two pianists. I like it; it sounds very difficult because of the two (four) parts. There’s a fugue!

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