Recorded on 08/09/2011, uploaded on 11/07/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
In the midst of searching for his own unique musical voice, Claude Debussy discovered the works of the Symbolist writers Maurice Maeterlinck, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Verlaine, and thus found a reflection in words of all he sought in his own music. Maeterlinck provided him the means of escaping Wagner’s operatic influence and the libretto to his one and only complete opera Pelléas et Mélisande; Mallarmé offered the inspiration for his watershed orchestral tone poem Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune; Verlaine, the text for nearly one-third of Debussy’s total output of song.
Paul Verlaine’s 1869 poem Clair de lune drew from Debussy three musical interpretations: the widely known third movement of the Suite bergamasque for piano, composed between 1890 and 1905; and two lesser known vocal settings, the first in 1882, and the second, a decade later in 1892. This first setting for voice and piano renders Verlaine’s lyrics in an optimistic fashion. The poem blurs the distinction between reality and imagination, placing the cast of a Commedia del’arte troupe amongst the staged setting of the reader’s soul, while draped in moonlight, they sing of love and fortune. In a brilliant F-sharp major, the opening figurations of Debussy’s setting capture beautifully the imaginative scene while the triple meter reflects the movements of its players. The vocal melody, once appearing after the somewhat lengthy introduction, floats above this graceful accompaniment, shimmering with chromatic inflections as if struck by the gleaming moonlight. The music of the opening returns, in altered form, at the start of the song’s last line of text. Following the voice’s last utterance, the left hand of the piano part ascends into the treble, effecting a delicate and moonlit close. Joseph DuBose
The Steans Music Institute is the Ravinia Festival's professional studies program for young musicians.
We at classicalconnect.com believe that classical music is a necessity of life. It is our pleasure to be your virtual concert hall and bring you this performance.
Copyright 2008-2010 Classical Connect, LLC