Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was born in St.Germain-en-Laye, a small town near Paris and died in Paris. He was a significant French Impressionist composer who included the impressionist elements in his compositions, emphasizing on tone color, fluidity and exoticism. Not only he had written piano, choral, chamber music works and an opera Pelleas et Melisande, he also wrote several orchestral works. The most important composition in his orchestral works was the symphonic poem (a single movement orchestral work that develops a poetic idea); Prelude a L’apres midi d’un faune (Prelude to The afternoon of a Faun, thereafter called Prelude). The sections and compositional styles used mainly in the Prelude shall be discussed in the essay.
Poet Stephane Mallarme claimed that the piece “far exceeded his expectations” when he first heard it on the piano before its publication. Claude Debussy intended the music to suggest “the successive scenes of the Faun’s desires and dreams on that hot afternoon.” Debussy finished the revision of his symphony to Stephane Mallarme’s poem “Afternoon of a Faun” by the end of summer, 1894. The prelude was premiered by Societe Nationale on 22nd December 1894. For the first time in history, the Societe opened its doors to the public as “the work had been looked forward to with keen interest.” The work was such a great success that the conductor, Gustavo Doret had to repeat the performance the next day at Salle d’Harcourt. In summer 1895, the prelude was included in the repertoires of all orchestral societies. 11 years later on December 1913, it was adopted by the Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris, a much honored achievement.
The instrumentation of this piece is meant for a small symphony …
…es of Debussy’s music can be heard in the works of many composers during the first two decades of the twentieth century . Some of the young composers were already attempting to imitate the details of his style and manner . His music has greatly influenced Igor Stravinsky, who remarked “I and the members of my generation owe most to Debussy” . There was no other important composer who can be described as entirely impressionist aside from Debussy.Works Cited
Leon Vallas, Maire Brien and Grace Brien, Claude Debussy, his life and works (Dover Publications: New York, 1973)Roger Kamien, Music: An Appreciation – 10th edition (McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc: New York, 2011)Kristine Forney and Joseph Machlis, The Enjoyment of Music: an introduction to perceptive listening—11th ed., shorter version (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.: United States of America, 2011), 290