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Claude Debussy: “Prélude à l’Apres-midi d’un Faune” and “Clair de Lune”

Here is the beginning of  Claude Debussy’s profile at Encyclopedia Britannica:

Claude Debussy, in full Achille-Claude Debussy (born August 22, 1862, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France—died March 25, 1918, Paris), French composer whose works were a seminal force in the music of the 20th century. He developed a highly original system of harmony and musical structure that expressed in many respects the ideals to which the Impressionist and Symbolist painters and writers of his time aspired. His major works include Clair de lune(“Moonlight,” in Suite bergamasque, 1890–1905), Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894; Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), the opera Pelléas et Mélisande (1902), and La Mer (1905; “The Sea”). (Continue Reading…)

Above is a beautiful 1962 performance of Debussy’s Clair de Lune by violinist David Oistrakh and pianist Frida Bauer. Late last year, New York Times critic Michael Tommasini devoted one of his “musical moment” video blogs to a single note late in the piece.

Below, the Ensemble de l’Orquestra de Cadaqués performs Prélude à l’Apres-midi d’un Faune (Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun) under the direction of Vasily Petrenko. The back story:

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) was one of the greatest innovators in the history of French poetry. His works, which abound in complex symbols and images, seek to represent states of mind rather than ideas, express moods rather than tell stories. Mallarmé tried to capture that elusive line between dream and awakening that most of us who are not poets are well aware of but are unable to put into words.

Mallarmé’s eclogue L’Après-midi d’un Faune (“The Afternoon of a Faun”) was published in 1876.Debussy first set a poem by Mallarmé to music in 1884, at the age of 22. Three years later, the young composer joined the circle of poets and artists who met at Mallarmé’s house every Tuesday night for discussions and companionship.Thus he was thoroughly familiar with the poet’s style before he began work on his prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun” in 1892. (Continue Reading…)