Composer: Claude Debussy (b. 1862 - d. 1918)
Performance date: 01/07/2017
Venue: Bantry Library
Composition Year: 1917
Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc
Viviane Hagner -
Huw Watkins - [piano]
died on 25 March 1918 after a long battle with cancer. Paris was
under bombardment and some of the last sounds he heard were the
explosions. He had been under sentence of death since December 1915
and increasingly debilitated by the dreadful illness. Strangely the
summer of 1915 had been one of the most productive periods in his
entire life, all the more extraordinary as he had not been able to
write anything since the outbreak of war. In that summer, he
blanc et noir and
wrote both the Cello Sonata, the Trio Sonata for flute, viola and
harp and the Études.
that autumn, he wrote to an Italian friend: When
I tell you I spent nearly a year unable to write music, after that
I’ve almost had to re-learn it. It was like a rediscovery and it’s
seemed to me more beautiful than ever! Is it because I was deprived
of it for so long? I don’t know. What beauties there are in music
‘by itself’ with no axe to grind or new inventions to amaze. The
emotional satisfaction one gets from it can’t be equalled, can it,
in any of the other arts? This power of ‘the right chord in the
right place’ that strikes you. We’re still in the age of
‘harmonic progressions’ and people who are happy just with beauty
of sound are hard to find.
violin sonata was not only his last work but its first three
performances were his last appearances on stage. In chacteristically
self-deprecatory mode he affected to dismiss the work as merely an
interesting example of what a sick man might produce in time of war.
And yet the music bears no trace of either sickness or war. It was
the third in a series of six chamber works that he promised his
publisher Jacques Durand, where he described himself on the title
page as musicien
seems to have been less a patriotic description, more a statement of
his musical heritage stretching back to the clavecinistes
of the seventeenth century, an allegiance that is reflected in the
classical purity of these three works – the third being the trio
for flute, harp and viola.
opening movement has a classical poise, alternating between the
moments of pure calm and great beauty. The central intermezzo has the
character of a fantastical serenade with stunning instrumental
colouring generating a series of wild effects. The Finale recalls the
first movement theme before launching into an exuberant dance.
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