1899: Debussy: Nocturnes

SATURDAY, April 4, 2020

This is yet another miracle recording by Stokowski…

This is from 1957 and has his usual trademark spacious sound created by carefully miking the instruments so that something is always happening from left to right.

Debussy Nocturnes

This is also called Trio Noctures or Three Nocturnes. Since there are three of them, there are also three movements. All of them are incredibly famous today, and very popular. I have heard them all my life. Debussy often wrote for orchestra in three movements but did not call such creations “symphonies”, although there is no reason why he could not have done so. He also did not call these compositions “tone poems” although he always used titles that suggest ideas that are more visual than the individual movements of symphonies.

Debussy: I. Nuages (Clouds)

Modéré – Un peu animé – Tempo I – Plus lent – Encore plus lent

(a bit animated – Tempo I – more slowly – even more slowly)

“Nuages” renders the immutable aspect of the sky and the slow, solemn motion of the clouds, fading away in grey tones lightly tinged with white. — Debussy

Trios Nocturnes: II. Fêtes (Festivals)

Animé et très rythmé – Un peu plus animé – Modéré mais toujours très rythmé – Tempo I – De plus en plus sonore et en serrant le mouvement – Même Mouvement

(Animated and very rhythmic – A little more animated – Moderate but always very rhythmic – Tempo I – More and more loud and “tightening” the movement – Same Movement)

“Fêtes” gives the vibrating, dancing rhythm of the atmosphere with sudden flashes of light. There is also the episode of the procession (a dazzling fantastic vision), which passes through the festive scene and becomes merged in it. But the background remains resistantly the same: the festival with its blending of music and luminous dust participating in the cosmic rhythm. — Debussy

Debussy: III Sirènes (Sirens)

Modérément animé – Un peu plus lent – En animant surtout dans l’expression – Revenir progressivement au Tempo I – En augmentant peu à peu – Tempo I – Plus lent et en retenant jusqu’à la fin

(Moderately animated – A little slower – Animating above all in expression – Returning gradually to Tempo I – Increasing little by little- Tempo I – Slower and holding back until the end)

“Sirènes” depicts the sea and its countless rhythms and presently, amongst the waves silvered by the moonlight, is heard the mysterious song of the Sirens as they laugh and pass on. — Debussy.


3 thoughts on “1899: Debussy: Nocturnes

  1. I finally have an image of what Debussy is for me. So much music “tells a story” with a beginning, middle, and end”. With Debussy I feel like I’ve been dropped in the middle of nature, and as I wander about, I encounter things. They just “are”, from moment to moment.

  2. The first nocturne brought images of a lazy afternoon spent daydreaming. In contrast, the second was full of energy. The last was inspired by his fondness for the sea.

    ‘You may not know that I was destined for a sailor’s life,’ Debussy wrote in 1903, ‘I have always held a passionate love for her, the sea…’

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