Suite Music

Started by Owen David, May 22, 2023, 12:52:22 PM

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Owen David

I was going to ask: who do you think is the greatest master of the orchestral suite?  For me, I would say Sibelius.  I love his suites, and above all, the magical Karelia Suite.

But then reading up on the subject, I also felt there was some confusion on the subject with Finlandia for instance being referred to as a tone poem although it was originally part of a larger suite.  Also Valse Triste is part of a suite for a play.

Anyway, Sibelius still holds the crown as suite-master general in my view.

More controversially I would say that in some ways the suite seems the more superior orchestral form of music compared with the symphony, which can sometimes feel almost mechanised whereas the Suite at its best has a very natural flowing feel to it.

Any thoughts?




DavidW


Owen David


pjme


 :) Cannot help it - a Suite sans esprit de suite...

I checked the Brittanica :

"Suite, in music, a group of self-contained instrumental movements of varying character, usually in the same key. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the period of its greatest importance, the suite consisted principally of dance movements. In the 19th and 20th centuries the term also referred more generally to a variety of sets of instrumental pieces, mainly in forms smaller than those of the sonata, and included selections for concert performance of incidental music to plays (e.g., Felix Mendelssohn's music for Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream [composed 1843] and Georges Bizet's L'Arlésienne suite [composed 1872]) and ballet music (e.g., Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker suite [1892] and Igor Stravinsky's Firebird suites [1911, 1919, 1945]).

The suite of related dance movements originated in the paired dances of the 14th–16th centuries, such as the pavane and galliard or the basse danse and saltarello. Often the same melodic theme would be treated in different metre and tempo in the two dances. In the 16th and 17th centuries German composers often arranged three or four dances as a unified musical entity, an early example being Johann Hermann Schein's Banchetto musicale (published 1617), a collection of suites of five dances for five viols.

In France the trend was to publish suites for solo lute or keyboard that were simply collections of as many as 17 or 18 pieces, almost always dances, in the same key. The French composers gradually transformed the dances into elegant, refined compositions, and the individual dance genres developed distinctive musical traits. Usually the French composers gave their pieces fanciful or evocative titles, as in the ordres (suites) of François Couperin (e.g., the allemande L'Auguste from Ordre I of his first book of harpsichord music)."

Michael Praetorius (many dance suites for all kinds of instrumental ensembles):



Albéric Magnard goeds all the way "in olden style"...








Florestan

I think there is some overlap here between suites proper (best of the lot, Tchaikovsky and Massenet), stage music (many Sibelius instances) and suites abstracted (usually not by the composer themselves) from larger works such as operas, ballets and stage music. I love the first two categories but I'm much less keen on the third, which usually gives only a very pale idea of the whole thing (for instance, Peer Gynt, The Nutcracker and Carmen).
Si un hombre nunca se contradice será porque nunca dice nada. —Miguel de Unamuno

Maestro267

Yes, there's an enormous difference between the suite as butchered from an opera or ballet and the standalone original works known as Suites such as Bach's or Tchaikovsky's Orchestral Suites or Handel's Water Music. And there can be confusion as well. For instance, Roussel simply decided to call the first and second acts of Bacchus et Ariane "Suite No. 1" and "Suite No. 2" respectively once he realized they'd be more successful in the concert hall vs the stage, despite the fact they are the complete acts.

vandermolen

Aren't the Lemminkainen Legends by Sibelius referred to as a Suite? If so they are definitely one of my favourites.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Owen David

Quote from: pjme on May 23, 2023, 07:36:36 AMAlbéric Magnard goeds all the way "in olden style"...


I was unfamiliar with Magnard so thanks for introducing me to him - a very enjoyable composition.  Perhaps he was one of the first composers to define the form  of the modern orchestral suite - far removed from the idea of a collection of dances. 








Owen David

Quote from: Florestan on May 23, 2023, 07:53:10 AMI think there is some overlap here between suites proper (best of the lot, Tchaikovsky and Massenet), stage music (many Sibelius instances) and suites abstracted (usually not by the composer themselves) from larger works such as operas, ballets and stage music. I love the first two categories but I'm much less keen on the third, which usually gives only a very pale idea of the whole thing (for instance, Peer Gynt, The Nutcracker and Carmen).

Thanks for the disambiguation - useful!

Owen David

Quote from: vandermolen on May 23, 2023, 01:41:20 PMAren't the Lemminkainen Legends by Sibelius referred to as a Suite? If so they are definitely one of my favourites.

Thanks for the recommendation - I wasn't aware of them. I just listened to the fourth section and it certainly had lots of parallels to the Karelia Suite in its structure I think. Didn't seem as melodically strong as the Karelia Suite but I need to give it another listen. :)

vandermolen

Quote from: Owen David on May 23, 2023, 02:15:53 PMThanks for the recommendation - I wasn't aware of them. I just listened to the fourth section and it certainly had lots of parallels to the Karelia Suite in its structure I think. Didn't seem as melodically strong as the Karelia Suite but I need to give it another listen. :)
I love the middle movement of the Karelia Suite and find it very moving in a way. Do try to listen to all the Lemminkainen Legends (AKA Four Legends for Orchestra) which is one of my favourite works by Sibelius. The Swan of Tuonela is sometimes played separately as is the finale, although 'Lemminkainen in Tuonela' is my favourite section.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Roasted Swan

Light Composers are masters of "suites" (proper - as in how the works were originally composed not an assemblage from a larger score) and best of the best is probably Eric Coates with "London Everyday Suite" the most famous.  Don't forget Tchaikovsky's 4 Orchestral Suites which in terms of scale are symphonic but he wrote them as suites precisely to avoid the 'rigour' of symphonic form and development.  Sitting betweem the light and the serious are fine suites by GMG's beloved Havergal Brian - his English Suites are great fun as is Grainger's "In a Nutshell" suite

Owen David

Quote from: vandermolen on May 23, 2023, 10:09:10 PMI love the middle movement of the Karelia Suite and find it very moving in a way. Do try to listen to all the Lemminkainen Legends (AKA Four Legends for Orchestra) which is one of my favourite works by Sibelius. The Swan of Tuonela is sometimes played separately as is the finale, although 'Lemminkainen in Tuonela' is my favourite section.

Yes I knew of The Swan and had always assumed it was a stand-alone piece, so thanks for adding some context there.

pjme

A few Suites that I like:

Francis Poulenc: Suite Française : https://youtu.be/-_KIJWqVKBw
Camille Saint-Saêns : Suite algérienne in C major, Op. 60 : https://youtu.be/4YNov9ObQEw
Johann Halvorsen: Suite ancienne : https://youtu.be/b6ExgE-w9hs
Darius Milhaud: Suite Provençale: https://youtu.be/3TNo43r9-GI
Arthur Honegger: Phèdre : https://youtu.be/ie0gTF21Ubc

Owen David

Quote from: Roasted Swan on May 23, 2023, 11:06:23 PMLight Composers are masters of "suites" (proper - as in how the works were originally composed not an assemblage from a larger score) and best of the best is probably Eric Coates with "London Everyday Suite" the most famous.  Don't forget Tchaikovsky's 4 Orchestral Suites which in terms of scale are symphonic but he wrote them as suites precisely to avoid the 'rigour' of symphonic form and development.  Sitting betweem the light and the serious are fine suites by GMG's beloved Havergal Brian - his English Suites are great fun as is Grainger's "In a Nutshell" suite

Not quite on the level of Calling All Workers or the Dam Busters March, to my ears, but fun nonetheless! Thanks for the other tips. 

Symphonic Addict

Two suites that haven't been mentioned yet and are very popular among listeners (I can think of several members here who love them): Uuno Klami's Kalevala Suite and Frederick Delius' Florida Suite.
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Maestro267

Ferde Grofe's suites are fun, especially Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and Mississippi.

Roasted Swan

Quote from: Symphonic Addict on May 25, 2023, 05:26:17 PMTwo suites that haven't been mentioned yet and are very popular among listeners (I can think of several members here who love them): Uuno Klami's Kalevala Suite and Frederick Delius' Florida Suite.

Florida Suite is remarkably good for such an inexperienced composer