The Little Nigar
|The Little Nigar|
|Piano music by Claude Debussy|
Debussy at the piano in 1893
|Other name||The Little Negro / Le petit nègre|
The Little Nigar (CD 122, L. 114) is the original title by composer Claude Debussy for a short piece for piano, composed in 1909 for a piano method, and published the same year. It was later also published as a single piece, titled The Little Negro and Le petit nègre.
Debussy composed The Little Nigar (giving the noun this spelling) in 1909 on a commission from Théodore Lack, for his piano method Méthode de Piano. The subtitle describes it as a cakewalk. It is reminiscent of Golliwogg's Cakewalk from his Children's Corner, a piano suite that he had composed a year earlier. In both pieces, rhythmic outer sections frame a melodic middle section. In Golliwogg's Cakewalk, the middle section satirically quotes the beginning of Tristan und Isolde by Wagner, a composer who had influenced Debussy when he was young, but from whose late romantic style Debussy later distanced himself.
Debussy regularly sought exotic influences. In The Little Nigar, he alluded to banjo chords and drums, influenced by American minstrel shows. The piece, marked allegro, begins with a first theme presenting "jazzy" syncopes in 2/4 time, in the then popular ragtime style. It is followed by a lyrical passage, marked espressivo and pianissimo (very softly), which leads to a return of the first section. The first theme leans towards pentatonic, and is accompanied by a chromatic sequence of broken minor thirds.
The Little Nigar was first published in 1909 by Éditions Alphonse Leduc in Paris, as part of Lack's piano method, and again as a single piece in about 1934, now with an added repetition and titled The Little Negro, with subtitle Le petit nègre.
Debussy also used the main theme in his 1913 ballet for children La boîte à joujoux, where it characterises an English soldier. Numerous transcriptions in various instrumentations were made of the piece. An arrangement for woodwinds was used[when?] for advertising the dog food Purina One.
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