9 Dec 2012

Composer of the Week - Claude Debussy

From Composer of the Week, 9:15 am on 9 December 2012

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Claude Debussy ca 1908

Claude Debussy ca 1908 Photo: Public domain

Debussy is usually described as an Impressionist, however in this programme, subtitled Debussy the Symbolist, Ryan Smith argues that Symbolism had far more influence on Debussy artistically.

“Debussy uses chords like Mallarmé uses words, as mirrors which concentrate the light from a hundred different angles upon the exact meaning, while remaining symbols of that meaning and not the meaning itself.” (Philosopher T.E. Clark, 1908)

The Mallarmé referred to in that quote is poet Stephane Mallarmé, who along with fellow poet Paul Verlaine developed the Symbolist manifesto. In the 1880’s Mallarmé hosted a regular Tuesday evening session to talk about aesthetics and around the table sat artists from different disciplines including Oscar Wilde, Maurice Maeterlinck, Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas and our Composer of the Week, Claude Debussy.

The Rosicrucian s Rosy CrossSymbolists adapted mythological subject matter to be relevant to the times and Debussy wrote several works based on Greek mythology. He became interested in numerology, the Golden Section, the occult and then, along with fellow composer Erik Satie, Rosicrucianism. He joined the Paris branch of the Rosicrucian brotherhood, led by eccentric Josephin Peledan.

We used music from the following recordings in the programme:

DEBUSSY: Cloche a travers les feuilles, from Images – Pierre-Laurent Aimard (pno) (Warner 8573 83940)
DEBUSSY: Danses sacree et profane – Yolanda Kondonassis (harp), Oberlin 21/ Bridget-Michaele Reischl (Telarc CD 80694)
DEBUSSY: Brouillards, from Preludes Bk 2 – Jean-Yves Thibaudet (pno) (Decca 452 022)
DEBUSSY: Iberia II. Les parfums de la nuit – Orchestre National de Lyon/ Jun Märkl (Naxos 8572296)
SATIE: Gymnopedie No 1 - Jean-Yves Thibaudet (pno) (Decca 470 290)
DEBUSSY: Nuages, from Nocturnes - Orchestre National de Lyon/ Jun Märkl (Naxos 8570993)
DEBUSSY: Pelleas et Melisande - Orchestre National de Lyon/ Jun Märkl (Naxos 8570993)
DEBUSSY: Sampak  - Gamelan from Central Java (ARC EUCD 1902)
DEBUSSY: Pagodes, from Estampes - Jean-Yves Thibaudet (pno) (Decca 452 022)
DEBUSSY: La chute de la Maison Usher - Christine Barbaux (sop), François Le Roux (bar), Pierre-Yves le Maigat (bbar), Jean-Philippe Lafont (bar), Monte-Carlo Phil/ Georges Pretre (EMI CDM 7 64687)
DEBUSSY: Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune - Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch (RCA 82876 59416)
DEBUSSY: Sirenes, from Nocturnes - MDR Radio Choir, Leipzig & National Orch of Lyon/Jun Märkl (Naxos 8570993)
DEBUSSY: La cathédrale engloutie - Claude Debussy (pno roll recording) (Pierian 0001)
DEBUSSY: La Mer - Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch (RCA 82876 59416)
DEBUSSY: Reflet dans l’eau, from Images – Pierre-Laurent Aimard (pno) (Warner 8573 83940))
DEBUSSY: Jardins sous la plouie, from Estampes - Noriko Ogawa (pno) (BIS CD 1105)
DEBUSSY: Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut, from Images – Pierre-Laurent Aimard (pno) (Warner 8573 83940)
DEBUSSY: Canope, from Preludes Bk 2 - Jean-Yves Thibaudet (pno) (Decca 452 022)
SATIE arr DEBUSSY: Gymnopedie No 1 - Montreal SO/Charles Dutoit (Decca 421 527)
DEBUSSY: Pour remercier la pluie au matin, from 6 Ancient Epigraphs - Katia and Marielle Labèque (pnos) (Philips 454 471)
DEBUSSY: Prelude to Act II: La chamber jagique, from Le Martyre de St Sebastian - National Orch of Lyon/Jun Märkl (Naxos 80572297)
DEBUSSY: Voiles, from Preludes Bk 1 - Jean-Yves Thibaudet (pno) (Decca 452 022)