1913 in Music

List of my music reviews for music published in 1913.

1. Erik Satie: Descriptions automatiques (10/10)

There’s not really anything in his early work to prepare you for this stuff. Yes, there had been humour in his titles and little in his music, but here he really starts to take on the past in a way that he never had before… and few other composers had, to my knowledge. A crazy clash of what was supposed to be high- and what was supposed to be low-brow.

1. Erik Satie: Embryons desséchés (10/10)

More sheer zaniness, attacking the old French musical establishment (and the popular music of the country) with humour and attitude.

3. Edward Elgar: Falstaff (9/10)

Fastaff is fantastic; it feels like half of the first wave of film score composers adored it. And unlike so much programmic music, it actually sounds out the action, which is a rare feat to my ears.

4. Charles Ives: “General William Booth Enters into Heaven” (9/10)

This has the usual bonkers stuff of Ives’ songs, only there’s a choir and orchestration, so it sounds considerably more bonkers than had this been played on piano. It’s pretty damn cool.

5. Claude Debussy: Préludes Book II (9/10)

The second Book of preludes is, if anything, even more obscure, more in line with Debussy breaking away from the constrains of traditional piano cycles. Like much of Debussy’s work (and Satie’s), this feels like the death of programmatic nonsense and the also the death of linear development. I’m not sure these are his greatest piano pieces, but they are right up there.

6. Erik Satie: Chapitres tournés en tous sens (8/10)

Satie just produced an onslaught of these pieces in 1913 and at some point it becomes hard to separate them all without paying an absolute ton of attention. I like these a lot, I think.

7. Erik Satie: Croquis et agaceries d’un gros bonhomme en bois (8/10)

Another bold comedy piece, just not up to the standard of the two most famous pieces.

8. Erik Satie: Vieux sequins et vieilles cuirasses (8/10)

Another of his parodic assaults on the music establishment and their airs.

9. Gabriel Faure: Nocturne No. 11 in F-sharp minor, Op. 104 (8/10)

The 11th has that impressionistic hesitancy that I like so much, and a compelling melody, but lacks a certain something I can’t put my finger on compared to the nocturnes preceding it. I still like it, I just don’t like it quite as much as the 9th and 10th.

10. Erik Satie: Les pantins dansent (7/10)

FYI, this version is without orchestra.

This has a rather unique melody for Satie, to my ears.  It’s a neat, rather unique piece, though it is brief, as usual.

11. Gabriel Faure: Barcarole No. 11 in G minor, Op. 105 (7/10)

This indeed sounds like like Faure to my ears, at least the opening does. Someone called this “austere” and I can’t really get behind that once the piece really gets going. It’s pleasant, though.

12. Erik Satie: Le piège de Méduse (7/10)

A series of short straight-faced parodies of various dances. Apparently in performance this may have been the first use of a prepared piano in music history. However, the version I have does not include this aspect.

13. Gabriel Faure: Barcarole No. 10 in A minor, Op. 104 (7/10)

This one goes from quiet and (seemingly) slow to loud and (seemingly) fast pretty quickly, only to undulate in the middle. It is not my favourite.

14. Gabriel Faure and Alfred Cortot: Impromptu in D-flat major, Op. 86 bis (7/10)

This is a harp piece adapted by someone else for the piano. It’s interesting that it’s considered canonical enough for a collection. It’s pretty and makes me want to hear the original harp piece.

15. Erik Satie: Enfantines (7/10)

This is a series of pieces – or a series of series of pieces – truly intended by kids. Sometimes the music written for children is intended to education or challenge kids, but this music is meant specifically to be played by children. Though it’s not my favourite of Satie’s, it does presage the whole obsessions with naivete that later dominated the art and music worlds a few decades down the line.

16. Erik Satie: Six Pièces de la période (6/10)

This is a collection of six pieces, possibly unrelated in Satie’s mind, but assembled together after his death with the publication dates being guesstimated. The last piece was supposedly written in 1913, so here they are. The pieces are:

  1. Désespoir agréable: Almost funereal but light enough to not be. Very brief.
  2. Deux choses:
    1. ‘Effrontiere’: Like a period romantic drama in miniature; conveys powerful emotions though it is so short.
    2. ‘Poesie’: A much more subdued, briefer piece. Sort of like the epilogue. Not altogether unhappy.
  3. Prélude canin from 2 préludes pour un chien: I don’t know where the other one went. Maybe it’s lost to history. This dog’s life appears to be happy.
  4. Minuet exercises:
    1. Profondeur: Not super familiar with the form; I think the idea is that the title is a joke. Whether or not it is, it’s pretty great high romantic stuff (written, likely, in parody of it).
    2. Songe-creux: Sounds very similar to the other one, to my ears. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a very similar set of chords, just played slightly differently. Not dreamy, despite its title.

17. Erik Satie: Musiques intimes et secrètes (6/10)

Another one of these posthumous collections putting together three likely unrelated pieces from 1906-1913:

  1. Nostalgie: Though I don’t know what he’s nostalgic for, I feel it.
  2. Froide songerie: Though my initial thought was these weren’t related, I can hear similarities between the first two which make me think that at least some thought, pardon the pun, when into pairing them. Doesn’t feel cold to me though.
  3. Fâcheux exemple: Feels like it could be scored for a Tati film.

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