Recorded on 01/25/2011, uploaded on 01/25/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Claude Debussy composed 2 Romances in 1885, the year in which he began his studying in Rome after winning the prestigious Prix de Rome the previous year. Based on two poems by the contemporary French poet, Paul Bourget, they are particularly early examples of Debussy’s craft. His uniquely impressionistic voice had yet to fully manifest itself, yet in this and other early works it is undoubtedly there, just beneath the surface, waiting to break free and unfold in full blossom. Over the next decade, Debussy would continue to struggle with finding that individual voice that so defines his mature works.
Les cloches (“The Bells”) is the second of the two Romances and, like many of Debussy’s pieces, is a wistful melancholy piece. Bourget’s text describes the distant tolling of bells and the narrator’s recollection of days gone by, of a happy time that is no more, at their sound. Debussy’s setting, though simple, is nonetheless effective and potent. A melodic motif that occurs frequently throughout the song is heard in the opening measures. Atop this plaintive motif is an accompaniment of arpeggios that proceeds nearly unbroken throughout the entire course of the song. Finally, the vocal melody is equally nostalgic, subtly agitated by a recurring triplet rhythm against the prevailing duple meter. Joseph DuBose
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