DEBUSSY: Images / Le martyre de Saint Sebastien

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ClaudeDebussy (1862 - 1918)


Le martyre de SaintSebastien (fragments symphoniques)

Marche ecossaise sur untheme populaire

Berceuse heroique

TheFrench composer Claude Debussy exercised a powerful influence over his successors, notleast through his harmonic experiment and his delicate handling of timbres. This secondquality is particularly apparent in his use of relatively large orchestral forces tocreate effects often of the greatest delicacy, in a manner comparable to his poetictreatment of the piano.

Debussywas born in 1862, the son of a shop-keeper who was later to turn his hand to otheractivities, with varying success. He started piano lessons at the age of seven andcontinued two years later, improbably enough, with Verlaine's mother-in-law, who claimedto have been a pupil of Chopin. In 1872 he entered the Conservatoire, where he abandonedthe plan of becoming a virtuoso pianist, turning his principal attention to composition.

In 1880, at the age of eighteen, he was employed by Tchaikovsky's patroness Nadezhda vonMeck as tutor to her children and house-musician. On his return to the Conservatoire heentered the class of Bizet's friend Ernest Guiraud and in 1864 won the Prix de Rome, thefollowing year reluctantly taking up obligatory residence, according to the terms of theprize, at the Villa Medici in Rome, where he met Liszt. By 1887 he was back in Paris,winning his first significant success in 1900 with Nocturnes and going on, two yearslater, to a succes de scan dale with his opera Pelleas et Melisande, based on the play byMaurice Maeterlinck.

Debussy'spersonal life brought some unhappiness in his first marriage in 1899 to a mannequin, LilyTexier, and his association from 1903 with Emma Bardac, the wife of a banker and anamateur singer, whom he eventually married in 1908. In the summer of 1904 he had abandonedhis wife, moving into an apartment with Emma Bardac, and the subsequent attempt at suicide bythe former alienated a number of the composer's friends. His final years were darkened bythe war and by cancer, the cause of his death in March 1918, when he left unfinished aplanned chamber music series, of which only three works had been completed.

Theorchestral Images occupied Debussyintermittently over a period of seven years, from 1905 to 1912, the chosen title an echoof an earlier work for piano. The completed orchestral composition opens with Gigues,originally Gigues tristes, apparently inspired by Verlaine's poem Streets, that had laterbeen set to the tune of the Northumbrian Keel Row. Written during the poet's stay inLondon and suggested by a street-corner in Soho, the poem is elegiac in tone, its refrain,Dansons la gigue!, poignant in its repetition as the writer recalls happier times of love- Je me souviens, je me souviens / des heures et des entretiens, / et c'est le meilleur demes biens.

Thesecond section of Images, Iberia, is inthree movements, Par les rues et par les chemins, Les parfums de la nuit and Le matin d'unjour de fete. The streets of Spain are evoked in bright orchestral colours, including thesound of the castanets and the tambourine or tambour de basque. The second movement givesa languorous dream-picture of the delicate fragrances of the night, introduced by the oboeover a sustained high pedal note in the strings. The music moves to a climax of intensityand as the peace of night returns, the bells of morning are heard. The third movementfollows without a break, a distant march, interrupted briefly by a memory of the night.

The upper strings assume the role of guitars as the music continues with a carnivalmedley, the Spanish fiesta of the title, fragments of festivity through which can be heardthe tolling of the bells and the whole-tone motif of the French horns.

Thescore of the third part of Images, Ronde deprintemps, has at its head a translation of a verse by Politian, Vive le Mai, bienvenu soit le Mai / Avec son gonfalon sauvage (Long live May, welcome be May / With her wildbanner). The wild banner of May is not immediately apparent in the music, which opens inthe frost of remembered winter, a high string tremolo serving as background for fragmentsof melody from the woodwind, a gradual spring awakening, leading to a dance, leger etfantasque, which gives way to an impressionist picture of a spring morning, into which iswoven the French folk-song, “Nous n'irons plus au bois”, a sentiment notentirely appropriate to the occasion.

Theorchestral Le martyre de Saint Sebastien isderived from incidental music written in 1911 for the mystery by Gabriele d' Annunzio,orchestrated in part by Andre Caplet. The original work combined cantata, opera andballet, and was choreographed for Ida Rubinstein by Fokin, with decor by Bakst.

D'Annunzio's work attempts to combine the myth of Adonis with the Christian story of St.

Sebastian. The first of the symphonic fragments, under the title La cour de Iys (The Court of Lilies), is introducedby the woodwind, joined by muted cellos and double basses, before the emergence of an oboemelody accompanied by two of the three harps for which the work is scored. The music setsthe scene for the martyrdom of two young Christians. The second movement, Danse extatiqueet final du 1ier acte (Ecstatic Dance and Finale of the First Act), accompanies the danceof Sebastian on burning embers in self-punishment, ending in a miraculous vision. Lapassion finds the saint welcoming his own martyrdom, while the final Le bon pasteur (TheGood Shepherd) accompanies Sebastian's vision of sacrifice in the grove of Apollo.

Marcheecossaise sur un th?¿me populaire

(Scottish March on a popular theme), originally in the form of a piano duet, was writtenat the request of the Scottish General Meredith Reid, a descendant of the lords of Ross,and makes use of a traditional melody associated with the clan. It was written in 1891.

The Berceuse heroique of 1914 had an overtlypatriotic motive, commissioned by the writer Hall Caine as part of a collection oftributes to King Albert of the Belgians and his armies. The work makes use of the Belgiannational anthem, La Braban?ºonne.

BRTPhilharmonic Orchestra, Brussels

The history of the BRTPhilharmonic Orchestra, Brussels goes back to the birth of the Belgian Radio in the 1930s.

After the well-known musicologist and promoter of contemporary music, Paul Collaer, hadbecome head of the Music Department of the Belgian Radio, the orchestra, under itsconductor Franz Andre, gained a world-wide reputation for its interpretations of thelatest compositions of Stravinsky, Berg, Bartok, Hindemith and other 20th centurycomposers. The orchestra gave the first European performance of Bart6k's Concerto forOrchestra in Paris and the first West European performance of the Fourth Symphony byShostakovich, and has, over the years, worked with many leading conductors, from PierreBoulez, Paul Hindemith and Darius Milhaud to Lorin Maazel and Zubin Mehta.

In1978 the Radio Symphony Orchestra was dissolved and both the Flemish and the French Radiodivisions set up their own symphony orchestras. The Flemish network soon had a neworchestra, the BRT Philharmonic, with some 90 musicians and Fernand Terby became itsprincipal conductor from 1978 to 1988. Since 1988, Alexander Rahbari has been theprincipal conductor and musical director of the new BRT Philharmonic Orchestra.

Alexander Rahbari was born in Iran in 1948 and was trained as a conductor at the ViennaMusic Academy as a
Item number 8550505
Barcode 4891030505056
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Romantic
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Debussy, Claude
Debussy, Claude
Conductors Rahbari, Alexander
Rahbari, Alexander
Orchestras Belgian Radio and Television Philharmonic Orchestr
Belgian Radio and Television Philharmonic Orchestr
Producers Laporte, Andre
Laporte, Andre
Disc: 1
Berceuse heroique
1 Gigues
2 Iberia
3 Rondes de Printemps
4 Le martyre de Saint Sebastien
5 Marche ecossaise sur un theme populaire
6 Berceuse heroique
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