Recorded on 05/25/2011, uploaded on 01/05/2012
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Claude Debussy composed his two books of preludes during a remarkably brief period—the first, between December 1909 and February 1910; and the second, during roughly the same period in 1912-13. Though totaling twenty-four in number between the two books, Debussy’s preludes do not follow the precedent established by J. S. Bach’s ubiquitously known Well-Tempered Clavier (namely, a prelude in each of the major and minor keys) and imitated by several other composers, including Frédéric Chopin, Charles-Valentin Alkan, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. However, this does not mean that Debussy’s preludes are without order, and the relationships that can be found among them indicate that their published order was, to a certain extent, quite purposeful, yet also designed with a degree of inherent flexibility. Debussy, in keeping with the artistic philosophy of his day, also composed each prelude with specific scene or image in mind. Yet, to partially disguise these intents from the listener and to allow his audience to discover them of their own accord, Debussy craftily placed his titles at the end of each prelude. Performance practice of the preludes varies. Early performances, even by Debussy himself, established a precedent of grouping the prelude in threes or fours, allowing performers to pick those in which they perhaps are most comfortable. However, some performers also choose to perform each book in their entirety.
Starting off Book I of Debussy’s Préludes is Danseuses de Delphes (“Dancers of Delphi”). A curious piece, there is little about it, other than its triple meter, that calls to mind the explicit images and motions of the dance. Instead, the listener is presented with a sort of hypnotic music as if composed from the perspective of the dancers’ audience than the dancers themselves. Delphi was an important Ancient Greek city. It was host to the Pythian Games in honor of Apollo’s slaying of the dragon Python and a precursor to the modern day Olympics, but unique in the fact that it also included musical competitions. Ancient Greek culture was particularly fashionable in the intellectual circles of Debussy’s time, and in his slow (Lent et grave) and solemn music the listener witnesses the reverential movements of the Delphic dancers before the oracle of Apollo. Joseph DuBose
Danseuses de Delphes, from Preludes Book I Claude Debussy
Debussy published his first book of Preludes in 1910, which marks a turning point in his piano composition. In the 12 preludes he found new means of expression in sound, harmony and form, and created a whole new palette of colors for the keyboard. Danseuses de Delphes - The first prelude of the series was probably inspired by a Greek sculpture that Debussy admired in the Louvre. The slow, majestic character and the 3/4 meter are similar to a sarabande from the Baroque era. Matan Porat
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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