French chamber music (1850-1950)


This post is a shrine for French chamber music from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

For one reason, apart from other favorite chamberists of mine like Brahms or Schumann, I always go back to French composers…. There is here a wit and lightness you find nowhere else.

Let me start this series with a most charming musician.

Francis Poulenc


Nicknamed ‘half-monk, half-delinquent’ by some (he also wrote moving church music), he exemplifies the clarity of purpose, simplicity, acidity and charm of french chamber music. He wrote great pieces for woods.

How to choose? Maybe two sonata’s stand out (for me), the sonata for clarinet and the sonata for oboe (see below).





This post is all about my guitar heroes and their great songs.

Steven Wilson is THE guiding lights these days in terms of progrock (i hate the word to be fair). 

If you do not get moved/electrified by ‘drive home’ then i guess you must be a robot.


Added in March 5, 2016:

Robert Fripp‘s solo on David Bowie’s heroes contributed to making that song memorable. But there are so many great guitar parts in his career. Take for instance the sheltering sky on King Crimson’s Discipline album. I will come back to Fripp later on as there are so many pearls in his discrete oyster.


Orchestral lush

This part of VDR on Sound is all about luxuriant orchestral pieces.

One name who is very british and relatively unknown in continental europe is Arnold Bax.

Have a go at his tone poems. See  Arnold Bax

Added on Feb 28, 2016:

I recently discovered the symphonies of Alexander Glazunov. He for too long remained in the shadow of other famous russian composers. Squeezed between two eras of music, he was either too old-fashioned or academic (Stravinsky’s view) or a Rimsky-Korsakov ‘me too’ follower. None of this true is you listen for instance to his third symphony.

Added on Apr 2, 2017:

I just finished reading a great biography about Albert Roussel by Damien Top.


Roussel, French musician used to work in the marine and as such travelled the world… But he quickly afterwards fell in love with forests, settled in a pavillon in France and produced several works of high quality. These works are influenced by far travels (the opera Padmavati), the sea and the Woods (first symphony), among others. He also composed great chamber music (more about this another time).

One of his biggest successes, and the one that fits in this ‘orchestral lush’ section must be the third symphony. See as an example the first movement thereof, so powerful. He was an example for many musicians of his time and a beloved teacher to famous other artists like Satie, Varese or another favorite of mine: Martinu. I will later also come back to one of his teachers from the Schola Cantorum: D’Indy.



Discreet music

Discreet Music by Brian Eno is at the origin of my interest for Ambient Music.

Discreet music was revisited in 2015 as a 7-section chamber music piece.


Added on Feb 2, 2016:

Max Corbacho‘s latest album ‘splendid labyrinths’ is a luxuriant piece, especially the first track: ‘the flowing path’.

Added on Feb 17, 2016:

Morton Feldman‘s tapestries stand out in their elliptic, simple beauty. 

Listen to his ´piano and string quartet’ by the Kronos Quartet.