1905: Debussy: Iberia

SATURDAY, April 4, 2020


This music is very interesting to me because I first heard it in a recording my mother bought when I was young. Generally I got my parents involved in music more often than the other way around, and I remember my mother being very disappointed. She know just a little about Debussy and thought this would be “cool”. I realize now that most of her disappointment was due to a very poor recording with no imagination. This recording is once again the exact opposite, very spacious, very rich, very free and therefore fun to listen to. This is another recording from around 1957 with the usual Stokowski sound and miking.

The Key…

It’s all in G major, at least that’s the central key for each movement. I mention that because no one talks about symphonies without name the key, but in this kind of music it is ignored, and I don’t understand why.

Debussy was apparently very pleased with this set of three pieces…

There is a quote from Debussy from a letter of 26 February 1910:

Il s’y émerveille de la transition réussie entre « Parfums de la nuit » et « Le Matin d’un jour de fête » : « Ça n’a pas l’air d’être écrit. »

He marvels at the successful transition between “Parfums de la nuit” and “Le Matin d’un jour de fête”: “It doesn’t seem to be written.”

I: Par les rues et par les chemins (In the streets and in the byways)

There are lots of interesting woodwinds parts, plucked strings, castanets, and tambourines. Then there is an oboe and viola theme based on a Moorish tune that appears in the next part.

II: Les parfums de la nuit (The scents of the night)

There is not much to say about this. I don’t know how you turn smells into sounds, but Debussy often talked about sound this way. For me it’s just delicate, subtle and very relaxing to listen to. There are quite a few whole tone sounds, including augmented chords that he used in “Sails”, and that Dukas used so much in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.

Debussy: III – Le matin d’un jour de fête (The morning of a festive day) – a procession of a ‘banda de guitarras’

Again, I prefer not to describe the music much. For me what we see as we listen to music is very personal, but the first theme is the exact same theme Debussy uses in Interrupted Serenade, which is also about a guitar player. This light theme interrupts the guitar player a couple times, injecting humor into something far more serious.

As a bonus, the best recording I’ve found…

This is the entire Images pour orchestre, and this really gets quite confusing. You can read the long story, but I’ll try to make it simple. It’s not simple at all for me, and I got very mixed up. Here are all the “Images”:

  1. Gigues (1909–1912) (There is only one.)
  2. Ibéria (1905–1908) (There are three pieces in this.)
  3. Rondes de printemps (“Round dances of spring”) (1905–1909)

I’m setting this to start with Ibéria, but the whole recording is amazing.



1 thought on “1905: Debussy: Iberia

  1. I’m coming here from Gigues. I want to listen to the whole thing when there is more time – this little taste makes me want to do so. In the present world atmosphere I am most in the mood for “Le matin d’un jour de fête” and am listening to it as I write.
    What is the name of those blocks of wood that get hit – I like the textured effect of the percussion coming in as it does.

Leave a Reply