September Song

Not the Weill/Anderson/Sinatra version – fine though it is – but, to end this short concert series, we have a September Song by Richard Strauss that’s nearly (or arguably, just) as famous. It’s preceded by two separate and very different musical days of high Summer, one from America, one from Bohemia; plus – in case […]

Hills (blue remembered and other)

On the idle hill of summer,Sleepy with the flow of streams… Concert: A. E. Housman’s dark rural world in A Shropshire Lad, with its contrasts of pastoral beauty and human tragedy, finds its musical equivalent in the work of George Butterworth; firstly, in Butterworth’s settings of Housman’s verse for voice and piano and then in […]

À bientôt, M. Croche

Monsieur Croche? Who’s he? In 1901 Debussy – always anxious to augment his sparse income – landed the job of music critic for the Parisian arts journal, La Revue Blanche. He used his articles not just to review the concerts he’d attended but also as a soapbox from which to express his (very Debussyan!) ideas on […]

Cover story

The sonata for flute, viola and harp is the second of Debussy’s projected ‘six sonates pour divers instruments’ of which he only managed to complete three before his death. As you can see his publishers, Durand, (posthumously) respected the composer’s intentions, printing a cover describing the sonata as the second of six (despite the fact […]

La Puerta del Vino

If you’re one of those people who’ve been lucky enough to visit Granada and explore the Alhambra Palace, you may well have come across the azulejo (painted tile) pictured above. It’s near the Wine Gate (Puerta del Vino) and acknowledges the piece in Debussy’s second book of Preludes that takes its title from that ancient […]

Sonate, que me veux-tu?

But what does it mean? Fontenelle’s famous outburst (literally Sonata, what do you want of me?) was aimed at the ‘pure’ music and abstract forms of baroque instrumental music. Essentially, the question is: how can something that has no ‘meaning’ mean so much? Abstract music was never Debussy’s ‘thing’; nearly all his works have some sort […]

The Japanese Wave

The original cover of Debussy’s score of La Mer (above) featured – at the composer’s request – a woodblock print by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave at Kanagawa; you can see the original below. A huge wave, reflecting and dwarfing the distant Mount Fuji, breaks over hapless fishermen in boats. The elemental power and danger […]

Light music

Debussy himself described his three orchestral Nocturnes thus: “The title Nocturnes is to be interpreted here in a general and, more particularly, in a decorative sense. Therefore, it is not meant to designate the usual form of the Nocturne, but rather all the various impressions and the special effects of light that the word suggests. […]