Debussy's Vocal Music and Its Poetic Evocations

Debussy's Vocal Music and Its Poetic Evocations

Siglind Bruhn


Pendragon Press



A new interdisciplinary exploration of Debussy's compositional development from the perspective of the artistic and poetic soirées of Stephane Mallarmé at the time of fin-de- siècle Paris.
In fin-de-siècle Paris, composers encountered an artistic atmosphere that was crucially determined by a number of poets who met regularly in the famous cabaret "Le Chat Noir" and at Stéphane Mallarmé's Tuesday soirées. According to Paul Dukas, these poets conceived their texts like musicians or painters: "Verlaine, Mallarmé, and Laforgue presented us with new tones, new sounds. They projected lights onto their words as had never been seen before," thus developing an aesthetics that Charles Baudelaire had termed "la correspondance des arts."

Claude Debussy, an avid reader of contemporary poetry, became a member of these circles when still in his early twenties. While as a student at the Paris conservatoire he had primarily set texts by poets from the generation of his parents and grandparents, he now turned to the lyric works of his contemporaries. The vocal cycles he composed in the course of the 30 years between 1885 and 1915 trace the path of his compositional development, which particularly since his encounter with the poetry of Paul Verlaine was defined by the quest for liberation from conventions handed down for too long.

This book, the first of two intended complements to Images and Ideas in Modern French Piano Music (Pendragon Press, 1997/2010), offers background information, analyses, and interpretations of his seminal cycles for voice and piano -- Ariettes oubliées (1885-1887), Cinq poèmes de Charles Baudelaire (1887-1889), Trois mélodies de Verlaine (1891), Fêtes galantes I & II (1891-1892/1904), Proses lyriques (1892-1893), Trois chansons de Bilitis (1897-1898), Trois ballades de François Villon (1910), and Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé (1913) -- complemented by the cantata La damoiselle élue (1887-1888) and Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande (1902).

SIGLIND BRUHN holds a PhD from the University of Vienna and is a music analyst, concert pianist, and interdisciplinary researcher.


December 2018
17 black and white illustrations
288 pages
9x6 in
ISBN: 9781576473153
Format: Paperback
Pendragon Press
BISAC MUS006000, MUS050000, MUS020000
Share on Facebook   Share on Twitter   Pin it   Share by Email

Related Titles

Table of Contents

Ariettes oubliées (composed 1885-87/1903; Text by Verlaine)
La damoiselle élue (1887-88; Rossetti)
Cinq poèmes de Charles Baudelaire (1887-89)
Trois Mélodies de Verlaine (1891)
Fêtes galantes I (1891-92; Verlaine)
Proses Lyriques (1892-93; Debussy)
Trois Chansons de Bilitis (1897-98; Louÿs)
Pelléas et Mélisande, Lyrical Drama (1894-1902; Maeterlinck)
Fêtes galantes II (1904; Verlaine)
Trois Ballades de François Villon (1910)
Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé (1913)
Debussy's Vocal Compositions: An Overview
Pelléas et Mélisande, English (Corresponding Stanzas by Rossetti)
List of Illustrations

Also by Author