Tonight weare doing the first of several shows over this year honoring Claude Debussy as2018 represents the centennial of his death.  As is the theme of this show we are doing works of hiscomposed in the 20th century, which means some of my favorites suchas his String Quartet in G minor, Opus 10 cannot be included as it was writtenand published in 1893.  Howeverthere is a wealth of Debussy works composed in the 20th century,which can be used on this show.

Tonight wewill start with the Images for Orchestra L 122 which is an orchestral work in 3sections. Debussy had originally intended this set of Images as a two-pianosequel to the first set of Images for solo piano as he described to hispublisher in 1905.  However by 1906he had changed his mind and decided upon an orchestra suite of works.  The three works are really an internationaltour as well.  For the first part Gigues,Debussy used his memories of England as inspiration for the music and includeda bit of the Tyneside folk tune “The Keel Row”.  The second part, Iberia, forms atriptych within a triptych and is inspired by Spain and Spanish dances and folktunes.  Its 3 parts are”Through the streets and the paths” – inspired by rondo form; “Thefragrance of the night” – the atmosphere of a fascinating Spanish nightand “The morning of a festival day” – a procession of a ‘banda deguitarras’.  In the third part ofImages for Orchestra is “Round dances of spring” and quotes from twoFrench folk songs.  Here is Imagesfor Orchestra performed by Michael Tilson Thomas & San Francisco Symphonyfrom the album Debussy: Images – Jeux – La plus que lente

Lets keepwith Images theme and feature a performance of the first book of Images forsolo piano which was completed between 1901 and 1905 and which was the initialinspiration for the Orchestral suite we just played.  This work has 3 parts Reflections in the water, Tribute toRameau and Movement.   Thefirst movement “Reflections in the water “ is a perfect example of the new tonecolours Debussy discovered for the piano in this part of his life, and thiswould become a tonal pattern which would become known as Debussy.  When you hear these tonal patterns youthink immediately “Debussy”. Hommage à Rameau is more subdued. It is asarabande in a spirit of austerity and seriousness of intention, befitting atombeau – a piece honoring a memory of a composer. Movement is the mostabstract designation of the pieces with an effect of swarming or buzzing or ofa whirring wheel.  Movement isbuilt upon a perpetual motion of triplets, creating a near endless andunstoppable torrent of notes throughout almost every measure of the finale.

Here is a performanceof  Claude Debussy’s  Images book 1 by pianist Alain Planèsfrom the album Debussy: Children’s Corner, Suite Bergamasque, Images

Lets keepwith Images theme and feature a performance of the first book of Images forsolo piano which was completed between 1901 and 1905 and which was the initialinspiration for the Orchestral suite we just played.  This work has 3 parts Reflections in the water, Tribute toRameau and Movement.   Thefirst movement “Reflections in the water “ is a perfect example of the new tonecolours Debussy discovered for the piano in this part of his life, and thiswould become a tonal pattern which would become known as Debussy.  When you hear these tonal patterns youthink immediately “Debussy”. Hommage à Rameau is more subdued. It is asarabande in a spirit of austerity and seriousness of intention, befitting atombeau – a piece honoring a memory of a composer. Movement is the mostabstract designation of the pieces with an effect of swarming or buzzing or ofa whirring wheel.  Movement isbuilt upon a perpetual motion of triplets, creating a near endless andunstoppable torrent of notes throughout almost every measure of the finale.

Here is a performanceof  Claude Debussy’s  Images book 1 by pianist Alain Planèsfrom the album Debussy: Children’s Corner, Suite Bergamasque, Images
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Next we havea very interesting work by Claude Debussy his Rhapsodie for alto saxophone andorchestra. 

Many greatcomposers have accepted commissions for new works, and then never managed tobring them to fruition; Debussy was certainly no exception. A composer whofound it exceptionally difficult to write anything to order, Debussy found thecomposition of his Rhapsodie for alto saxophone and orchestra — which had beenrequested in 1903 by Elisa Hall, President of the Boston Orchestral Club — aparticularly disagreeable task.

Debussy, whocared little for the instrument and knew almost nothing of its technicalcapabilities, would not fulfill the commission for the Rhapsodie for severalyears; indeed, when he did submit his score, it was incomplete andunorchestrated.

In 1905,when Hall performed one of her other commissions in Paris, and Debussy, who waspresent, later wrote that he thought it ridiculous to see a woman in a pinkfrock playing on such an ungainly instrument, adding that it was not his desireto perpetuate the spectacle. However, in 1911 Debussy again resumed work on thepiece, and finally sent Hall a rough draft of the work.  Uncompleted at the time of Debussy’sdeath Jean Roger-Ducasse undertook the task of completing the work.  The Rhapsodie was premiered in itscompleted form on May 11, 1919, conducted by André Caplet and featuringsaxophonist Yves Mayeur as soloist.

Here is aperformance of Debussy’s Rhapsody for Saxophone and Orchestra performed bysaxophonist Marcel Mule with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Paris conducted byManuel Rosenthal from the album Debussy: Rhapsody for Saxophone and Orchestra,La Mer

Speaking ofLa Mer,  It was composed between1903 and 1905.   Initially itwas not well received, but soon became one of Debussy’s most admired andfrequently performed orchestral works. It is in three movements:  “Fromdawn to noon on the sea” or – very slow – animate little by little (Bminor)   “Playof the Waves” – allegro (with a very versatile rhythm) – animated (C sharpminor) “Dialoguebetween wind and waves” – animated and tumultuous – give up very slightly(C sharp minor)

Here is aperformance of La Mer by Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by SergeKoussevitzky from the album Debussy: Rhapsody for Saxophone and Orchestra, LaMer

 We are going to end tonight’s tribute to Claude Debussy with 4 movementsfrom his Children’s Corner Suite for Piano. I. Doctor Gradus Ad Parnassum   II. Jimbo’s Lullaby III. Serenade for the Doll. VIGolliwogg’s Cake-Walk.  Hereperformed by Alain Planès from the album Debussy: Children’s Corner, SuiteBergamasque, Images

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  • 7:02pm Contemporary Classics-1-9-18-pt 1 Tribute to Claude Debussy by Contemporary Classics on 1-9-18-pt 1 Tribute to Claude Debussy
  • 7:04pm Claude Debussy: Images pour orchestre by Michael Tilson Thomas & San Francisco Symphony on Debussy: Images – Jeux – La plus que lente (San Francisco Symphony)
  • 7:43pm Claude Debussy: Images Book 1 by Alain Planès on Debussy: Children’s Corner, Suite Bergamasque, Images (harmonia mundi)
  • 8:01pm Claude Debussy: Sonata for Violin and Piano, L.140 by Jan Tomasow, violin & Franz Holetschek, piano on Little Big Debussy Box (eOne Music)
  • 8:02pm Contemporary Classics -1-9-18-Part 2 Tribute to Claude Debussy by Contemporary Classics on 1-9-18-Part 2 Tribute to Claude Debussy
  • 8:13pm Claude Debussy: Rhapsodie for alto saxophone and orchestra by Marcel Mule, Saxophone and Philharmonic Orchestra of Paris conducted by Manuel Rosenthal on Debussy: Rhapsody for Saxophone and Orchestra, La Mer (Discover Classical Music)
  • 8:24pm Claude Debussy: La Mer by Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitzky on Debussy: Rhapsody for Saxophone and Orchestra, La Mer (Discover Classical Music)
  • 8:48pm Claude Debussy: Children’s Corner – 4 movements by Alain Planès on Debussy: Children’s Corner, Suite Bergamasque, Images (harmonia mundi)
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