Images (Debussy compositions for solo piano)

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Images (usually pronounced in French) are six compositions (two series, books or sets, each consisting of three pieces) for solo piano by Claude Debussy. These are distinct from Debussy's Images pour orchestre. The pieces in the first series were written between 1901 and 1905 and the pieces in the second series were written in 1907.[1] The total run time is approximately 30 minutes.

Book 1 or 1st series (L110)

Book 2 or 2nd series (L111)

  • Cloches à travers les feuilles (mélancolie diffuse) (Bells through the leaves (diffuse melancholy))
  • Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (And the moon descends on the temple that was)
  • Poissons d'or (Golden fishes)

Inspirations and musical analysis[edit]

Debussy (along with Maurice Ravel) was a leading exponent of the innovative musical language in the late nineteenth century that is known as French Impressionism.[2]

Reflets dans l'eau is one of the many pieces Debussy wrote about water; in particular, light reflecting off its surface. The piece creates an image of water being not quite still, then becoming rapid, then decreasing in motion again. Reflets dans l'eau is also an example of the new tone colours Debussy discovered for the piano in this part of his life, and although he later refined this style, this piece is one of the greatest achievements Debussy reached with the instrument.[3] With respect to the first series of Images, Debussy wrote to his publisher, Jacques Durand: "Without false pride, I feel that these three pieces hold together well, and that they will find their place in the literature of the piano ... to the left of Schumann, or to the right of Chopin... "[4] Technical applications such as arpeggio, pedal-point, staccato, tremolo and glissando can be used to describe the variable movements of water.[5] A recording of a piano roll of the piece played by Debussy can be heard at the opening of an episode of BBC Radio 3's Building a Library series.[6]

Hommage à Rameau is more subdued. It is a sarabande in a spirit of austerity and seriousness of intention, befitting a tombeau - a piece honouring a memory of a composer.[7]

Mouvement is the most abstract designation of the pieces. The title and the music generate an effect of swarming or buzzing or of a whirring wheel.[8] Mouvement is built upon a moto perpetuo of triplets, creating a near endless and unstoppable torrent of notes throughout almost every measure of the finale.[9]

Cloches à travers les feuilles was inspired by the bells in the church steeple in the village of Rahon in Jura, France.[10][11] Rahon was the hometown of Louis Laloy, a close friend of Debussy, and Debussy's first biographer.

Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (literally And the moon descends on the temple that was) was dedicated to Laloy.[12] The name of the piece, which evokes images of East Asia, was suggested by Laloy, a sinologist. The piece employs a gamelan effect.[13]

Poissons d'or may have been inspired by a Chinese lacquer artwork such as that shown in the article at this link.[14] (Other sources suggest it may have been inspired by actual goldfish swimming in a bowl.[4])

Recordings[edit]

Many famous pianists of the 20th century have recorded Debussy's Images, such as Walter Gieseking and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. The French musical critic Jean Roy wrote of Claudio Arrau's 1979 recording (Diapason d'Or n° 266 & 334) as being "unrivalled".[15]

A recording by Noriko Ogawa[16] won the Editor’s Choice of Gramophone Magazine and is noted favorably by Stephen Walsh in BBC Radio 3's Building a Library series.[17] A recording by Marc-Andre Hamelin is noted for its "intriguing interpretive vision".[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Images . Piano. Séries 1 et 2". National Library of France. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  2. ^ Park, Sun Hye. "Elements of Impressionism evoked in Debussy and Ravel's Reflets dans l'eau and Jeux d'eau: The theme of water". University of Washington. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  3. ^ Lederer, Victor (2007). Debussy: The Quiet Revolutionary. New York: Amadeus Press.
  4. ^ a b Andres, Robert. "An introduction to the solo piano music of Debussy and Ravel". BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  5. ^ Park, Sun Hye. "Elements of Impressionism evoked in Debussy and Ravel's Reflets dans l'eau and Jeux d'eau: The theme of water". University of Washington. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  6. ^ Walsh, Stephen. "Building a Library: Debussy: Images - Stephen Walsh with a personal recommendation from recordings of Debussy's 2 books of Images for piano". BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  7. ^ Andres, Robert. "An introduction to the solo piano music of Debussy and Ravel". BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  8. ^ Andres, Robert. "An introduction to the solo piano music of Debussy and Ravel". BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  9. ^ DuBose, Joseph. "Images I - Claude Debussy". classicalconnect.com. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  10. ^ "Le blog de La librairie Heurtebise". Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  11. ^ Andres, Robert. "An introduction to the solo piano music of Debussy and Ravel". BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  12. ^ Anderson, John C. "John Clement Anderson: Images - Série II - 2 Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut". last.fm. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  13. ^ Andres, Robert. "An introduction to the solo piano music of Debussy and Ravel". BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  14. ^ Faure, Michel. "Music and Society". Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  15. ^ "CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)".
  16. ^ "Noriko Ogawa: Pianist: Full Biography". Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  17. ^ Walsh, Stephen. "Building a Library: Debussy: Images - Stephen Walsh with a personal recommendation from recordings of Debussy's 2 books of Images for piano". BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  18. ^ Beaumont, Réa. "Debussy – Images; Preludes II - Marc-André Hamelin". the Whole Note. Retrieved 27 December 2016. Hamelin executes the intricate passagework with fluidity and ease, exposing an array of subtle tone colours.