Recorded on 01/05/2012, 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.
Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest (“What the West Wind Saw”) is the seventh prelude of Debussy’s first book. An antithesis of the tranquil and refreshing third prelude, Le vent dans la plaine, Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest depicts a raging tempest and the furious might of the west wind. It is a technically challenging piece (perhaps one that would be more appropriately placed among the composer’s Études), requiring the utmost facility of the performer. Debussy’s compositional language is equally demanding. Strident chords, tritones and melodic fragments built from whole tone scales, alongside sweeping arpeggios, thunderous tremolos, and agitated rhythmic motives create the turbulent scene of Debussy’s imagination. Only briefly during the prelude, marked by a change of key, does the tempest partially subside. Yet, this lull is but fleeting, a brief moment in which the wind gathers its full force and returns more turbulent than before, raging until the final measure of the prelude. Joseph DuBose
Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest, from Préludes, 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.Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest probably refers to Hans Christian Andersen’s story, “The Garden of Paradise”, in which the journey of the four winds is described. The constant turbulence of the wind is always evident and gives the prelude (no. 7) a general sense of excitement and unrest. Matan Porat
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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