Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Water Music by Claude Debussy and Marice Ravel


Claude-Achille Debussy (Living Masters of Music) by Louise Shirley Liebich

Petite Suite - Orchestra Version by Claude Achille Debussy

Children's Corner - Orchestra Version by Claude Achille Debussy, Andre Caplet

Debussy by Percy Marshall, Young

The Cambridge Companion to Debussy (Cambridge Companions to Music) by Simon Trezise (Editor), Jonathan Cross

The Life of Debussy (Musical Lives) by Roger Nichols

The Vintage Guide to Classical Music by Jan Swafford

This paper analyzes the works, in particular the compositions, of Claude-Achille Debussy and (Joseph) Marice Ravel. Both of these composers were influenced by poets, artist, and playwrights of the Impressionist Period. This comment is supported by references to various quotes, works, and other details.

Claude-Achille Debussy was inspired by the paintings of Claude Monet. Claude Monet is a famous impressionist painter, who is very well known for his study of light, reflection, and water. Some sayings by Claude-Achille Debussy include:

'Art is the most beautiful deception of all. And although people try to incorporate the everyday events of life in it, we must hope that it will remain a deception lest it become a utilitarian thing, sad as a factory. People come to music to seek oblivion: is that not also a form of deception?...' (Claude-Achille Debussy (Living Masters of Music)) (Claude-Achille Debussy, inspired by Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise, 1873) This painting and connection to the quote show the idea of fantasy. The painting shows water and boats at sunrise.

"Music is the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by changing breezes. He who feels what he sees will find no more beautiful example of development in all that book which, alas, musicians read but too little--the book of Nature." (Claude-Achille Debussy (Living Masters of Music)) (Claude-Achille Debussy, inspired by Claude Monet’s Water Lillies: The Clouds, 1903) This painting and the quote are connected with nature. The painting shows water lilies on water with the reflection of clouds in the water image.

"I have made mysterious Nature my religion... to feel the supreme and moving beauty of the spectacle to which Nature invites her ephemeral guests, that is what I call prayer." (Claude-Achille Debussy (Living Masters of Music)) (Claude-Achille Debussy, inspired by Claude Monet’s Rock Arch West Of Etretat, (The Manneport), 1883) This painting and quote are connected with strenth. The painting has image of rough water passing through an arch.

"Some people wish above all to conform to the rules, I wish only to render what I can hear... / There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law." (Claude-Achille Debussy (Living Masters of Music)) (Claude-Achille Debussy, inspired by Claude Monet’s Houses Of Parliament, London, 1905) This painting and quote deals with the idea of freedom. The painting shows land and water.

"Extreme complication is contrary to art.... Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part." (Claude-Achille Debussy (Living Masters of Music)) (Claude-Achille Debussy, inspired by Claude Monet’s Garden In Bordighera, Impression Of Morning, 1884) This painting and quote deal with pleasure. The painting shows plantlife.

"But I have an endless store of memories, and to my mind, they are worth more than the reality, whose beauty often deadens thought." (Claude-Achille Debussy (Living Masters of Music)) (Claude-Achille Debussy, inspired by Claude Monet’s Magpie, 1868-1869). This painting and quote deal with reminiscence (memories). The painting shows snow.

We can better recognize the influence of water images in the Impressionism Period on Claude-Achille Debussy by studying his life. Claude-Achille Debussy (1862-1918), a french composer was the founder and the most important representative of the Impressionist movement in music. His composing style had served as inspiration for many later composers. Images and scenes hidden within the music, never conveyed directly, but always colored by the artist's imagination, the most important characteristic of Debussy's music is its visual power. As if they were trying to offer an insight into some great, unnamed mystery surrounding us the composer's impressions of reality sound magical and mysterious. His influence survived to this day.

The creator and leading exponent of French musical impressionism was Achille Claude Debussy, b. Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Aug. 22, 1862, d. Paris, Mar. 25, 1918. He had his first piano lesson at the age of 9. Debussy entered the Paris Conservatory, where he studied piano with Antoine Francois Marmontel and composition with Ernest Guiraud in 1873. In 1884 his cantata L'enfant prodigue won the Prix de Rome. Debussy confined his activity to composition, rarely appearing in public as a performer from 1887 on.

Like Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy enjoyed the company of the leading impressionist poets and painters who gathered at the home of the poet Stephane Mallarme although he associated little with musicians. Their influence is felt in Debussy's first important orchestral work, inspired by Mallarme's poem, L'Apres-midi d'un faune, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1892-94). Which lasted nearly 20 years this work established the style of impressionist music and initiated Debussy's most productive period. He composed the orchestral suites Nocturnes (1893-99), La Mer (1903-05), and Images (1906-09); most of his piano music, including the two books of Preludes (1910-13); the incidental music to The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian (1911); the ballet Jeux (1912); a number of songs and some chamber music; and his one completed opera, Pelleas et Melisande (1892-1902), based on Maurice Maeterlinck's drama during that time.

One of the most important influences on 20th- century music was Debussy's style. He refused to submit to the rules of traditional musical theory as a student. "There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law" (Debussy, Claude. The Musical Impressionist) later he stated. Such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss he rejected the overblown forms and the harmonic style of the post-Wagnerians. He preferred understated effects similar to those achieved by the French impressionist painters and poets. The most significant impressionist opera, Pelleas et Melisande, has been called a masterpiece of understatement. As though it had not been written down he wanted his music to sound improvisatory. Such as the 24 piano preludes, which often have fanciful titles such as "What the West Wind Saw," "Dead Leaves," and "Sounds and Scents Revolve in the Evening Air" many of his compositions are miniatures. Since Chopin's, Debussy's piano music is the most important. He created a subtle pianistic style that made new demands on performing technique, and the shifting, blurred sonorities of the style were achieved by a new use of the damper pedal. "Clair de lune" (Moonlight) from "Suite Bergamasque" (1890-1905) for piano is probably his best-known composition.

Claude Debussy’s works can be organized into four main categories, and then sorted chronologically (by year). The piano music category contains the pieces written for the solo piano, piano four hands or two pianos. Self-explanatory are the titles of the next two categories, orchestral and chamber, and vocal and choral. Operas, incidental music, and ballet are some other works by Claude Debussy. His piano music include Danse bohémienne 1880, Symphonie 1880, four hands, Divertissement 1882, four hands, Le triomphe de Bacchus 1882, four hands, Prèmiere suite d'orchestre 1883, Fête, Ballet, Rêve, Bacchanale, Petite suite 1888-1889, four hands, orchestrated by Henri Busser (1907), En bateau, En cortège, Menuet, Deux Arabesques 1888-1891, Mazurka 1890, Rêverie 1890, Tarantelle styrienne 1890, republished as "Danse" (1903), orchestrated by Maurice Ravel (1923), Ballade slave 1890, republished as "Ballade" (1903), Valse romantique 1890, Suite bergamasque 1890-1905, Prélude, Menuet, Clair de lune, Passepied, Marche écossaise sur un thème populaire 1891, four hands, Nocturne 1892, Images inédites 1894, Lent, doux et mélancolique, Sarabande "Souvenir du Louvre", Quelques aspects de "Nous n'irons plus au bois", Suite: Pour le piano 1894-1901, Prélude, Sarabande, orchestrated by Maurice Ravel (1903), Toccata, Lindaraja 1901, two pianos, and D'un cahier d'esquisses 1903. Some other piano works are Estampes 1903, Pagodes, La soirée dans Grenade, Jardins sous la pluie, Pièce pour piano 1903-1904, Masques 1904, L'isle joyeuse 1904, Images I 1904-1905, Reflets dans l'eau, Hommage à Rameau, Mouvement, Images II 1907, Cloches à travers les feuilles, Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fût, Poissons d'or, Children's Corner 1906-1908, orchestrated by André Caplet (1910), Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum, Jimbo's lullaby, Serenade for the doll, The snow is dancing, The little shepherd, The golliwogg's cake-walk, Hommage à Joseph Haydn 1909, Le petit nègre 1909, Préludes, Livre 1 1909-1910, Danseuses de Delphes, Voiles, Le vent dans la plaine, Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir, Les collines d'Anacapri, Des pas sur la neige, Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest, La fille aux cheveux de lin, La sérénade interrompue, La cathédrale engloutie, La danse de Puck, and Minstrels. To name some more are La plus que lente 1910, orchestrated by Debussy (1910), Préludes, Livre 2 1910-1912, Brouillards, Feuilles mortes, La Puerta del vino, Les Fées sont d'exquises danseuses, Bruyères, Général Lavine – eccentric, La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune, Ondine, Hommage à S. Pickwick Esq. P.P.M.P.C., Canope, Les tierces alternées, Feux d'artifice, Berceuse heroïque 1914, orchestrated by Debussy (1914), Épigraphes antiques 1914, four hands, orchestrated by Ernest Ansermet (1932), Pour invoquer Pan, Pour un tombeau sans nom, Pour que la nuit soit propice, Pour la danseuse aux crotales, Pour l'égyptienne, Pour remercier la pluie au matin, Elégie 1915, En blanc et noir 1915, two pianos, Avec emportement, Lent. Sombre, Scherzando, Etudes 1915, Pour les cinq doigts d'après monsieur Czerny, Pour les tierces, Pour les quartes, Pour les sixtes, Pour les octaves, Pour les huit doigts, Pour les degrés chromatiques, Pour les agreements, Pour les notes répétées, Pour les sonorités opposes, Pour les arpèges composes, Pour les accords, and Pièce (pour le Vêtement du blessé) 1915. In his piano pieces, the influence of water images by Impressionist artists is most obvious.

Maurice Ravel (1875 to 1937) was French, of paternal Swiss and maternal Basque descent.  Ravel combined skill in orchestration with meticulous technical command of harmonic resources, writing in an attractive musical idiom that was entirely his own, in spite of contemporary comparisons with a composer his senior by some twenty years, Claude Debussy.

There are two operas that Ravel wrote. The first, described as a comédie-musicale, L'heure espagnole (The Spanish Clock) and the second, with a libretto by Colette, the imaginative L'enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Enchantments), in which the naughty child is punished when furniture and animals assume personalities of their own.

Maurice Ravel also wrote ballets. In response to a commission from the Russian impresario Dyagilev Ravel wrote his ballet Daphnis et Chloé. Described as a symphonie choréographique the work is based on the Hellenistic pastoral novel of Longus. Originally for piano duet, Ma mère l'oye (Mother Goose), was orchestrated and used for a ballet, as were the Valses nobles et sentimentales and the choreographic poem La valse. A work he himself described as an orchestrated crescendo Ravel's last ballet score was the famous Boléro.

Maurice Ravel also created orchestral music. Ravel wrote an evocative Rapsodie espagnole (Spanish Rhapsody) in addition to the scores for ballet and arrangements of piano works for the same purpose. A version of the very well known Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Infanta), the Menuet antique, Alborada del gracioso from Miroirs and pieces from Le tombeau de Couperin is also included. Ravel wrote two piano concertos, the first, completed in 1930, for the left hand only, commissioned by the pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in the war, and the second, completed in 1931, for two hands, and these are other orchestrations of original piano compositions.

Maurice Ravel also indulged in vocal music. Songs by Ravel include the remarkable Shéhérazade, settings of a text by Tristan Klingsor for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, and the Don Quichotte à Dulcinée (Don Quixote to Dulcinea) songs, originally written for a film of Don Quixote in which the famous Russian bass Chaliapin was to star. Settings of the Jules Renard Histoires naturelles, with its instinctive sympathy with the birds and the cricket portrayed are included with songs with piano.

Chamber Music was also part of Maurice Ravel’s creations. Ravel's chamber music includes the evocative nostalgia of the Introduction and Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet, a violin sonata with a jazz-style blues movement, a piano trio and a string quartet. Tzigane is a remarkable excursion into extravagant gypsy style written for the Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Arányi.

Maurice Ravel also created piano music. Ravel was himself a good pianist. The Sonatina is in Ravel's neo-classical style and Le tombeau de Couperin is in the form of a Baroque dance suite. Such as the Pavane and the Menuet antique, as well as the more complex textures of pieces such as Jeux d'eau (Fountains), Miroirs and Gaspard de la nuit, with its sinister connotations, his music for the piano includes compositions in his own nostalgic archaic style.

Like Maurice Ravel, Claude-Achille Debussy also indulged in orchestral and chamber music. Orchestral and chamber music by Claude-Achille Debussy include Trio pour piano, violon et violoncelle 1879, lost, Intermezzo, pour violoncelle et orchestre 1882, Nocturne et Scherzo, pour violoncelle et piano 1882, lost, Printemps 1887, Fantaisie pour piano et orchestre 1889-1890, Andante ma non troppo, Lento e molto espressivo, Allegro molto, Scènes au crépuscule 1892-1893, Quatuor pour cordes Op.10 1893, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune 1892-1894, Nocturnes 1897-1899, Female chorus and orchestra, Nuages, Fêtes, Sirènes, Rhapsodie pour saxophone alto et orchestre [Deuxième] 1901-1911, unfinished, completed by Roger Ducasse (1919), Danse sacrée et danse profane 1904, Harp and strings, La Mer 1903-1905, De l'aube à midi sur la mer, Jeu de vagues, Dialogue du vent et de la mer, Rhapsodie pour clarinette avec piano ou orchestre [Première] 1909-1910, Petite pièce pour clarinette et piano ou orchestre 1910, Images pour orchestre 1905-1912, Gigues, 1909-1912, Ibéria, 1905-1908, Par les rues et par les chemnis, Les parfums de la nuit, Le matin d'un jour de fête, Rondes de printemps, 1905-1909, Syrynx 1913, flute solo, Sonate pour violoncelle et piano [Première] 1915, Prologue, Sérénade, Finale, Sonate en trio pour flûte, alto et harpe [Deuxième] 1915, Pastorale, Interlude, Finale, Sonate pour violon et piano [Troisième] 1916-1917, Allegro vivo, and Intermède, Finale. His vocal and choral works include Ballade à la lune 1879, lost, Madrid 1879, lost, Nuits d'étoiles 1880, Caprice 1880, Beau soir 1880, Fleur des blés 1880, Rêverie 1880, Souhait 1881 (unpublished), Triolet è Phillis (Zéphyr) 1881, Les roses c1881 (unpublished), Séguidille c1881 (unpublished), Pierrot c1881, Aimons-nous et dormons 1881, Rondel chinois 1881, unpublished, Tragédie 1881, unpublished, Jane 1881, Daniel 1881, cantata, 3 voices + orchestra, Hélène 1881, scène lyrique, soprano, chorus, four mixed voices, and orchestra, Fantoches 1882, unpublished, published in Fêtes galantes I (1891), Le lilas 1882, unpublished, Fête galante 1882, unpublished, Printemps: Salut printemps, jeune saison... 1882, Female chorus and orchestra, Flôts, palmes et sables 1882, unpublished, En sourdine 1882, republished in Fêtes galantes I (1891), Mandoline 1882, Rondeau 1882, Pantomime 1882, Clair de lune 1882, republished in Fêtes galantes I (1891), Le fille aux cheveux de lin 1882, unpublished, Sérénade 1882, unpublished, Choeur des brises 1882, female voice and chorus, sketches, unfinished, Hymnis 1882, comédie lyrique, voice, chorus and orchestra, Coquetterie posthume 1883, unpublished, Invocation 1883, Cantata for male chorus & orchestra, Le gladiateur 1883, Cantata for 3 coices & orchestra (unpublished), Chanson espagnole 1883, two Voices and piano, unpublished, Romance: Silence ineffable de l'heure... 1883, unpublished, Musique 1883, unpublished, Paysage sentimental 1883, L'archet 1883, unfinished, Chanson triste 1883, Fleur des eaux 1883, unfinished, Eglogue 1883, Soprano, tenor and piano, unpublished, Diane au bois 1883-1886, comédie héroique, soprano, tenor and piano, fragment, Romance: Voici que le printemps... 1884, and Apparition 1884. Some more are La romance d'Ariel 1884, unpublished, Regret 1884, unpublished, Le printemps: L'aimable printemps ramène dans la plaine... 1884, 4 voices + orchestra, unpublished, L'enfant prodigue 1884, scène lyrique, soprano,  baryton, tenor, and orchestra, revised 1906-1908, Prélude, L'année, en vain chasse l'année, Azael, pourquoi m'as-tu quitté?, Eh bien! Encore des pleurs, Cortège, Air de danse, Les airs joyeux, O temps à jamais efface, Je m'enfuis, Rouvre les yeux à la lumière, Mon fils est revenu, Plus de vains soucis, Mon coeur renaît, Dieu d'Israël, Barcarolle 1885, lost, Zuleima 1885-1886, Chorus and orchestra, lost, Ariettes, paysages belges et aquarelles 1885-1887, republished as Ariettes oubliées 1903, C'est l'extase, Il pleure dans mon Coeur, L'ombre des arbres, Chevaux de bois, Green, Spleen, La damoiselle élue 1887-1888, two female voices, female chorus, and orchestra (reorchestrated 1902), Axel 1888, Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire 1887-1889, Le balcon, Harmonie du soir, Le jet d'eau (also orchestrated), Recueillement, La mort des amants, La belle au bois dormant 1890, Les angélus 1891, Dans le jardin 1891/1903, Deux romances 1891, Romance: L'âme évaporée..., Les cloches, Fêtes galantes, Set 1 1891, En sourdine, Fantoches, Clair de lune, Trois mélodies 1891, La mer est plus belle que les cathedrals, Le son du cor s'afflige vers les bois, and L'échelonnement des haies moutonne à l'infini. Most of these works reflect the work of Impressionist artists.

Some more works by Claude-Achille Debussy that seems inspired by Impressionist art are Proses lyriques 1892-1893, De rêve, De grève, De fleurs, De soir, La saulaie 1896-1900, Voice (baryton) and orchestra, Chansons de Bilitis 1897-1898, La flûte de Pan, La chevelure, Le tombeau de Naïades, Trois chansons de Charles d'Orléans 1898-1908, four voices a cappella, Dieu! qu'il la fait bon regarder!, Quand j'ai ouy le tabourin, Yver, vous n'estes qu'un villain, Berceuse (pour 'La tragédie de la mort') 1899, Solo voice, Nuits blanches 1899-1902, sketches, unfinished, Ariettes oubliées 1903, see Ariettes, paysages belges et aquarelles (1888), Trois chansons de France 1904, Rondel I, Le temps laissié son manteau..., La grotte, Rondel II, Pour ce que Plaisance est morte..., Fêtes galantes, Set 2 1904, Les ingénues, La faune, Colloque sentimental, Le promenoir des deux amants 1904-1910, Auprès de cette grotte somber, Crois mon conseil, chère Climène, and Je tremble en voyant ton visage. To name others are Trois ballades de François Villon 1910 (also orchestrated), Ballade de Villon à s'amye, Ballade de Villon feit à la requeste de sa mère pour prier Nostre Dame, Ballade des femmes de Paris, Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé 1913, Soupir, Placet futile, Eventail, Noël des enfants qui n'ont plus de maison 1915, and Ode à la France 1916-1917, fragments, cantata for soprano, mixed chorus and orchestra.

Water images are particularly influential in the musical works of Debussy and Ravel. We could go on to discuss Impressionist artists separately. However, they are only mentioned with reference to Claude-Achille Debussy and (Joseph) Maurice Ravel as required. Impressionism is about creating idea, or showing the essence of something. Artists such as the painter Claude Monet did this through the study of light and brush-strokes. However, this expression is very different in music, as studied here by Debussy and Ravel. Some of the work is also lost or unpublished, which is a disappointment as it would have aided in this study.