1909 in Music

Music reviews for music published in 1909.

1. Arnold Schoenberg: Drei Klavierstucke Op. 11 (10/10)

These three piano pieces have to be regarded as among the most important in the history, not only of the instrument, but of music as a whole. This is where tonality begins to fall apart (and I think we’re the better for it). It’s hard to really express how important this set is – this is literally revolution in music.

2. Alban Berg: Piano Sonata Op. 1 (9/10)

I guess you could criticize Berg for being too Schoenbergien, but I think that’s silly, given how revolutionary Schoenberg was at his point. This piece is probably significantly easier to like than Schoenberg’s world-changing piece above, because it’s shorter and more traditional – though it’s by no means traditional – but it’s a still an important step along side Schoenberg’s, showing perhaps a safer way forward for those who were scared off by atonality.

3. Ferrucio Busoni: “Berceuse elegiaque” BV252 (piano version) (8/10)

I haven’t heard the official, orchestral version of this. But Busoni is among my favourites of the era; a really fascinating approach to music that was quite unique (so I believe) for the time.

4. Gabriel Faure: Barcarole No. 9 in A minor, Op. 101 (7/10)

This is perhaps the most impressionistic of all his barcaroles. That’s a good thing for me, since I generally like his impressionistic work better than his more traditional pieces. It’s still pretty damn traditional compared to the younger (real) impressionists but it’s pretty and it is also pretty dynamic, despite its start.

5. Paul Dukas: Prélude élégiaque sur le nom de Haydn (7/10)

Celebrating Haydn in 1909 must have been a pretty iconoclastic and idiosyncratic thing to do. I feel like Haydn was pretty much the further thing from vogue then (though I could be very wrong about that).

I’d say I know Haydn somewhat well at this point, but I’m not sure that I hear his muse in this very impressionistic elegy (or prelude to an elegy or what have you). Rather I hear the spirit of the time, albeit a little more conservative. Maybe that says more about me than the music. Maybe I should have listened to Haydn right before I listened to this again.

But this is a nice piece of music. I would not use the word elegiac to describe it, but I like it.

6. Leos Janacek: “Narodil se Kristus Pan” (7/10)

“Christ the Lord is Born” is pretty typical impressionism – it is barely there and feels almost totally at odds with its title.

7. Claude Debussy: Le petit Nègre (7/10)

Putting aside the name… This is quite a brief piece of Debussy. It is jaunty and feels a little bit like his attempt at the kind of thing Satie was doing at the same time, taking inspiration from American piano music. But it’s so much more idiosyncratic than Satie’s efforts, which is both a blessing and a curse.

8. Claude Debussy: Hommage à Joseph Haydn (7/10)

I haven’t listened t Haydn in forever but I suspect that this homage is very much in line with how Debussy does these kinds of things. Sure, there’s a classical feel for a bit, and then, instead, there’s crazy Debussy rumbling which doesn’t really sound like Haydn at all.

9. Gabriel Faure: Impromptu No. 5 in F-sharp minor, Op. 102 (6/10)

This is a brief piece which shows off the pianist’s ability. I don’t know if it does more than that.

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