1911 in Music

List of my reviews for music first published or performed in 1911.

 

1. Enrique Granados: Goyescas [Suite] (9/10)

It’s late Romantic at a time when Romantic could have definitely been deemed passe, but it’s full of energy and sounds like it’s just hell to play (which has always appealed to me). In fact, it’s one of those rare pieces that sounds complicated but not showy at the same time, if you know what I mean. I know one of the melodies from somewhere, but I have no idea where. It’s a great set.

 

2. Edward Elgar: Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 63 (1911)

People say this one has some hints of Mahler and Wagner. I don’t know Wagner well at all, so I can’t say for certain, but I’m not sure how much Mahler I hear. If there is anything, I’d sure like to be able to spot it.

Because from the get-go, that opening movement, this sounds, if anything, even more conservative than the first symphony. You know what, that’s not fair. It’s the very opening notes that sound conservative to me, but if I’m being fair, what follows really cannot be criticized for being too conservative – there is too much pulling at the edges of what would be considered acceptable then. Really, the more I listen to it the more I think it’s probably better than the first symphony. Just shows, I shouldn’t rush to judgment.

 

3. Alexander Glazunov: Concerto No. 1 in F minor for piano and orchestra, op. 92 (8/10)

The first piano concerto is very nice to listen to, and though it is pretty traditional for the era, I can’t help but enjoy it. It’s probably my favourite piece of Glazunov’s music that I’ve heard so far. A pleasure.

 

4. Charles Ives: Symphony No. 3 ‘The Camp Meeting’ (8/10)

The third symphony won the Pulitzer in 1947, I guess because of the collective guilt of the US cultural establishment, who had ignored the work for over three decades. From its opening movement, it is uniquely Ivesian and the title ‘Camp Meeting’ feels completely fitting – I like to imagine this symphony representing the cultural life of Chautauqua. I’m inclined to prefer symphony the second, frankly, but Mahler apparently liked this one, and so that’s a pretty ringing endorsement (since, you know, Mahler is God).

 

5. Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63 (8/10)

I struggle a little bit with the fourth symphony like I struggle with the third. However this one is less immediate than the third so I struggle more. I then read that this was apparently Sibelius’ response to the musical revolution going on around him and I get angry.

But all of that aside, it’s another pretty great piece full of the subtlety that defines his later works and with a great sense of eeriness that too many have seen as prescient of WWI.

It may be my least favourite of the seven symphonies, but that’s only because the others are so good.

 

6. Paul Dukas: La Péri (8/10)

The ballet is one of those moody late Romantic pieces that conjure up so many different emotions. I think I recognize some of the melodies but I can’t be sure.

It’s still pretty traditional for the day and age, so I don’t know that it’s a masterpiece by any means, but I like it and I could listen to music like this all day.

 

7. Gustav Holst: “Invocation” Op. 19 (7/10)

“Invocation” is his mini-cello concerto (or one of them, I don’t know). It is similar in execution to “Song of the Night” to my ears. It’s basically the cello version (albeit a little more strident). So I can’t say that I like it as much. But it’s still good stuff. (Same opus number – which makes a whole lot of sense – even though they were written six years apart, supposedly. In case you care about these things.)

 

8. Erik Satie: En habit de cheval (7/10)

This is, I think it’s safe to say, the more mature, more developed piece for four hands. Like the earlier one, it shows him taking from the past in a more direct way, I believe because he was (weirdly) attending music school at this point. I like both pieces but they are oddly unlike most of the rest of his work.

 

9. Leos Janacek: “Moderato” (7/10)

“Moderato” is an interesting but brief melody with a grand finale.

 

10. Igor Stravinsky: Four Russian Peasant Songs (7/10)

My understanding is the version I saw had been radically rearranged and I’m not sure whether it was Stravinsky who did it or someone else, as the original is supposedly for unaccompanied voice, whereas we saw a small orchestra and 8 women (I think).

I will say that, though once again the Russian lyrics didn’t translate well into English, Stravinsky’s setting of these songs was very far from what I imagine their original performances were like. This is one of those times where a composer seems to have taken the originals as just a jumping off point, something I like.

But very brief.

 

11. Gustav Holst: Suite No. 2 in F Major Op. 28 No. 2 [arranged by G. Jacob in the ’40s] (5/10)

The second suite for concert band has here been re-arranged for orchestra. This the second time I have heard one of Holst’s concert band pieces in a convenient orchestral arrangement rather than the original arrangement of the composer. Not only is it martial, but its opening is borderline Classical. I have actually heard this before. It’s so stately and British and boring. It’s the kind of thing the leaders of the Empire probably forced everyone to listen to as they contemplated their grandeur among pomp and circumstance. Ugh.

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