Suite Bergamasque (1890) Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
It’s title is probably derived from a phrase in Paul Verlaine's (d.1896) poem "Masques et bergamasques."(Maskers and Bergamaskers). Bergamasca is a16th century courtship dance of Bergamon, in northern Italy. Four of the pieces of the Suite Bergamasque composed and dated on editions in 1890, revised and published in 1905, but also he changed the original title of the pieces: the final piece, “Passepied”, began life as “Pavane”, while “Clair de lune” was originally called “Promenade sentimentale”. Debussy treated casually his titles and then the performers should take the trouble to follow up its significance.He was studying at The French Academy in Rome for two years in Villa Medici (1885-1887). He wrote cantata “Ladamoiselleélue” which was criticized by The Academy “Bizzare” and they hoped better for gifted Debussy, and upon his return to Paris he composed Suite Bergamasque. Although, how much of this work written in 1905 is unclear.
The Suite Bergamasque begins in rather unpromising fashion with a Prelude. The Prelude written in sonata form retains original character of introduction and improvisation. The rich harmonies move freely to develop the passages and retards lead to stronger voices simultaneously. A tonal texture, harmony and rhythmic elements bear witness to highly individual style. The second movement Menuet conveys the spirit of the poem far more clearly than the Prelude. Its atmosphere of dreamlike reality is helped by it’s texture and it’s more fanciful. It is like a reflection in a mirror-a menuet in the distance seen through the windows from the garden. At the end the glissando leads in to the darkness. Furthermore, Clair de lune (Moonlight) is one of the most frequent “dramas” of the musical scene. Filled with delicate, romantic feeling, it conveys through its precious harmonies the silvery atmosphere of the moonlight. Its shadowy and memorable ending in which one of the main themes is reduced to the merest fragments is an unusual and distinctive cadence. The closing movement Passepied is closest to the style of French clavecinistes. It maintains the precise rhythmic characteristics, non-legato marks and is quite slower than which was extremely popular in Paris in 17th century. Upon the regularity of the delicate canvas, rhythmical dance episodes alternate with more lyric passages. This charming piece is amix ofwistfulness and gaiety in about equal measure.
Valses Nobles et Sentimentales Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
One of the most important works in Ravel’s pianistic output, Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, consists of an original version for piano (1911), an orchestral transcription (1912), and a ballet argument based upon the transcription. With the title, Ravel explains his intention “of composing a chain of waltzes, following the example of Schubert.” The score contains a quotation from Henri de Régnier’s novel Les Rencontres de Monsieur de Bréot (1904): “The delightful and always novel pleasure of a useless occupation.” Valses Nobles et Sentimentales were first performed at the Société musicale indépendante, of which Ravel was one of the founding members. It was decided to introduce the work anonymously, and the audiences were invited to guess the composer. Valses Nobles et Sentimentales were played by Louis Aubert, to whom they are dedicated. But only a small majority of the audiences recognized the identity of the composer. These seven waltzes with an epilogue contain all the essential ingredients of Ravel’s style and harmonic language. The first waltz is definitely “noble”, the second waltz “sentimental” and somewhat nostalgic. The third waltz is elegant and has smoothly flowing effect which, moreover carried on into the fourth waltz. The fifth is sensuous and dreamlike; the sixth waltz sounds like “one-legged” steps that lack synchronization of the hands. The seventh waltz is the longest, set in traditional A-B-A form and the most characteristic of the series. The epilogue recalls all the rhythmic hesitation of the waltzes except fifth.
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