Saturday, March 1, 2014

Clair de Lune

Occasionally I revisit the Suite Bergamasque by Claude Debussy, the source of many musical puzzles.  But it was just this past week that I felt I "got it."

The clue is in the two titles: Suite Bergamasque and Clair de Lune, references to the poem by Paul Verlaine which I know well because of my many years working with singers.  Faure's setting is perhaps his most beautiful work; Debussy's I like less well, but then there is this suite, a special sort of setting of the poem.

The poem is about the meeting of the real with the past, the forgotten, the dreamt but not lived, the promise of beauty in the works of art that have come down to us.

As one listener put it, it was on the verge of the audible: one of the harder things to achieve on the piano, and probably not possible in a large hall.  Debussy's many pp and ppp markings are not "expression" indications; they are essential to the work.