CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, L 86 (1894) 11 ′
MAURICE RAVEL: Ma mère l’Oye, five children's pieces. Ballet (1908-10) 28 ′
One of the distinguishing features of French music is the care for color. From Jean-Philippe Rameau to spectralism, to Hector Berlioz and Claude Debussy, we can find a refined and voluptuous conception of instrumentation and orchestration, with a special focus on timbre games.
Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune takes its name from the eponymous poem by Stéphane Mallarmé. Its musical fragments treated as a succession of sketches of pantheistic scenes make this work crucially relevant to understanding both last century’s orchestral music and modern dance based on Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography of the piece.
Ma mère l’Oye, the last work in the program, takes its name from Charles Perrault's classic collection of short stories published in 1697, and begins with a prelude. Original for four-handed piano and written in 1908, it was a gift from Maurice Ravel to Mimi and Jean Godebski, children of two of his best friends.