French composer Claude Debussy was born Aug. 22, 1862. This iconoclastic composer changed French music forever, and paved the way for music of the 20th century. Celebrations are being held in his honour the world over to celebrate his 150th birthday. Let’s have a look at some of them.
Claude Debussy – Music and the Arts, Paris, France
It is fitting that Paris, Debussy’s hometown, opened an exhibit at the beautiful Orangerie, a jewel of a gallery that features the large-format waterlilies of Claude Monet. The show was called Claude Debussy – Music and the Arts. Debussy is often associated with the impressionists because of his ability to capture a fleeting impression or mood, and the way he played with light and colour. Debussy hated the idea that his music was linked to impressionist painting, but he did love art. “I like pictures almost as much as I love music,” he once admitted.
Here in Canada, Debussy is being fêted at a number of music festivals this summer.
MusicFest Vancouver (Aug. 10-19) will hold two splashy Debussy celebrations. Deux Pianos: Hommage a Debussy features Philippe Cassard and Francois Chaplin, a French piano duo that specializes in the music of Debussy. Their program includes both original piano works and arrangements, including the sensual Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and the lively Petite Suite. The concert takes place Aug. 18 at the Vancouver Playhouse.
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune – Debussy from jbrprod on Vimeo:
Donna Brown is one of Canada’s foremost sopranos. She has frequently performed with Cassard, who has recorded Debussy’s complete works for piano. The two join forces in a concert called Forgotten songs to fête Debussy’s 150th. Debussy was a great admirer of – and friends with – symbolist poets such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine and Charles Baudelaire. He loved to set their poems to music, and this recital features works including Ariettes oubliées, Fêtes galantes and Deux romances. The concert is on Aug. 17 at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver.
Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival
The music of Debussy shows up in a variety of forms at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival (July 27-Aug. 9). Artistic director and cellist Roman Borys will team up with pianist Jamie Parker and violinist Yehonatan Berick to play Debussy’s early and very romantic Piano Trio. This concert is part of the festival’s Late Night Classics series, and takes place July 29, 9:30 p.m., at Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts.
On July 31, the festival has a tribute concert to Debussy featuring Honens laureate Hinrich Alpers, who'll play Debussy’s second book of Images. Alpers is also joined by soprano Martha Guth in a selection of Debussy's French mélodies, and violinist Marie Bérard in Debussy’s Violin Sonata.
The Festival Gala Concert on Aug. 7 features Louis Lortie and Augustin Dumay. On the program, Lortie, who has a way with French music, will perform Debussy’s Préludes for solo piano.
Domaine Forget International Festival, Charlevoix, Quebec
The Domaine Forget Internationl Festival takes place in the magnificent Charlevoix region of Quebec. The festival is sprinkling Debussy throughout the summer-long event with diverse artists including flutist Susan Hoeppner, who presented an evening of Debussy’s chamber music with her musical friends last Friday.
Coming up on July 20, Philippe Muller and Suzanne Blondin will play Debussy’s Cello Sonata, and on Aug. 4 pianist Alexandre Tharaud will play Debussy’s Trois Préludes. On Aug. 12, Louis Lortie brings his Debussy Préludes.
Canadian orchestras join in the celebration
Debussy’s music will be celebrated throughout his birthday year, and Canadian orchestras are joining in. L’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal will play the rarely heard Symphonic Fragment of Le Martyre de Saint-Sébastien. James Conlon will conduct this concert on Sept. 27. The National Arts Centre Orchestra will play Debussy’s vivid depiction of the sea, La Mer, on Nov. 22 and 23.
Domaine Forget Festival begins 35th season
Premiere of Debussy's Pélleas et Mélisande
CBC Music's classical summer listening list
on Jul 02, 2012