1910 in Music

List of music reviews of music published in 1910.

1. Charles Ives: Symphony No. 2 (10/10)

Though originally finished in 1902, this symphony was revised to a great extent for 1910, so that’s why it’s here. The second symphony opens with a movement that is, for Ives, startlingly traditional but it soon brings the zaniness he’s known for. The second movement builds slowly to a rather massive climax that feels particularly late Romantic and reminds me of some of my favourite pieces from the era (not in a bad way). The third movement features some of Ives’ most beautiful music. It’s perhaps the most telling reminder in the whole piece that the neglect the US musical establishment showed Ives at this time is downright preposterous. What possible reason could they have had for ignoring music like this? (The answer probably lies in the fact that they snubbed the man, not the music, and never even gave the music a chance.) The firth movement contains the most audible quotes (to my ears) of others’ music and so is perhaps the most Ivesian of the bunch. The whole thing is an impressive piece that I liked a lot more after I gave it a few listens.

2. Englebert Humperdinck: Konigskinder (9/10)

Read the review.

3. Claude Debussy: Préludes Book I (9/10)

I haven’t listened to Bach’s preludes in forever and haven’t ever heard Chopin’s, so I’m not sure I know enough about the form to comment authoritatively. (I can’t, really.) And all I’ve really heard lately are Satie’s, which are way, way out there. But, Debussy’s, whether as a set or not, still seem to break with the form in key ways (at least that’s my understanding). And they are very much in line with his impressionistic view of the world; one I really appreciate. Though I can’t tell you to what degree they challenge preludes as a form, I can certainly guess and they certainly seem to. This is much more about conjuring up moments than setting up any kind of idea, or created a unified set.

4. Gabriel Faure: 9 Preludes, Op. 103 (9/10)

For some reason these preludes are apparently not very well known. That seems kind of crazy to me as they run the gamut of Faure’s abilities: from that faux hesitancy that I (and I suspect many others) find appealing about the genre, which gives impressionistic music so much of its sensory illusion in the slower moments, to dizzying displays of virtuosity that don’t sound obvious in the faster moments – i.e. the pianist shows off but in unexpected ways, some of which appear to strain against tonality at times. Really neat stuff.

5. Claude Debussy: La plus que lente (8/10)

My understanding is that this is an attack on the “slow waltz” craze of the era in Parisian society. As with much of Debussy’s music, it challenges your preconceived notions of what something can be – this certainly doesn’t fit with my ideas of a waltz (maybe I’m just not up on turn-of-the-century waltzes) except for brief moments. Try to dance to this. Good luck. (The tempo changes.)

6. Edward Elgar: Violin Concerto in B Minor (8/10)

I honestly don’t remember my first impressions of this concerto. It was one of the earlier Elgar pieces I heard, I believe. It’s understandable why it’s so famous. The soloist gets to show off. But the problem is that it’s a rather conservative piece of music for its time, compared to the stuff that is really interesting, and I’d rather hear interesting than showy, I think. That’s not to say that it’s bad, again, it’s just that it isn’t as interesting as I’d like it to be, which plagues most of Elgar’s work. But it’s part of repertoire and deservedly so. I just won’t go out of my way to listen to it.

7. Frederick Delius: “Intermezzo” from Fennimore und Gerda (6/10)

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with an intermezzo extracted from an opera. It’s pleasant enough, I guess. And I guess it fits in with the disc of tone poems I found it on, but on its own there’s nothing to recommend it.

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