My music reviews for music published in 1916.
1. Charles Ives: Symphony No. 4 (10/10)
From the opening bars of Ives fourth symphony, it’s clear this is Ives and he’s going to do whatever the hell he wants. The opening movement has to be one of the most unconventional opening movements in the history of the form, if not the most.
There is perhaps nothing else like it. It may be Ives’s greatest work. It’s certainly among his most daring for large orchestra, and that’s something, considering the man we’re talking about.
2. Charles Ives: Violin Sonata No. 4 “Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting” (10/10)
The fourth sonata is almost, almost one of those Copland-esque jaunty little American tunes. But fortunately Ives is too interesting for that. At one point he even quotes “Go Tell it On the Mountain,” which is very Romantic of him, but it’s just emblematic of his “clash” of sounds. In this sonata Ives seeks to recreate a camp experience and he does.
3. Gustav Holst: The Planets, Op. 32 (8/10)
4. Igor Stravinsky: Renard (8/10)
I saw this as a “shadow ballet” (for lack of a better term); it’s a “burlesque” about a fox eating roosters.
The lyrics didn’t really translate all that well, as they didn’t always appear to match the action and there is a goat that appears to be a carnivore. (Is that a thing in Russia?) And the moral I thought they were setting up, well it didn’t really happen that way.
The vocals areall-male and ran the range of the spectrum. The music was typical of Stravinsky of this time; thumpy and vibrant and engaging. I’d certainly be more likely to listen to this on its own than the other vocal music that came before, even if I didn’t get the story.
5. Frederick Delius: Violin Concerto (8/10)
As you might expect the violin concerto is full of lush strings and alternatively searching and pining melodies from the violin. Like much late Romantic music it feels more often than not about expressing particular emotions than showing off particularly dexterity on the violin. That’s not to say there aren’t virtuoso parts, just that mood is central to this concerto, as it is to all of Delius’ work. It’s fairly easy to see why this isn’t one of the more famous violin concerti of the era.
That being said, Delius’ skill is aural “images” and this concerto doesn’t let you down in that regard. As with his best music, Delius paints a picture in your mind (or, in this case, a series of pictures) of a recently departed, idyllic past only every occasionally interrupted by the extreme emotions of his contemporary composers (and the war raging when he wrote this). Yes, he’s conservative, but he’s very good at what he does.
6. Frederick Delius: Dance Rhapsody No. 2 (8/10)
This is quite the “dance” and seemingly much more of a rhapsody I think. It’s a sprightly thing with some surprises in addition to the usual lyricism overdose. I like it more than some of his other stuff. Still very Delius.
7. Frederick Delius: “Late Swallows” [adapted from his String Quartet] (7/10)
Presumably this is adapted from a movement of the string quartet and not the whole thing. Anyway, it’s typical Delius and it makes me think that the quartet may be boring. Of course, this would be the slow movement, but still. Not mournful enough for me and once again just over-infused with that pastoral quality of his that just seems to permeate (nearly) everything he wrote. There are hints of life here and there, but not enough.