Thursday, January 18, 2007

Le livre de Baudelaire

Between 1887 and 1889 Claude Debussy composed his Cinq poemes de Baudelaire. Strongly influenced by his recent exposure to the work of Richard Wagner, particularly Tristan and Parsifal, Debussy used a lush chromaticism to complement the sensation-drenched verses of Baudelaire's poetry. This is particularly evident in his setting of the poem Harmonie du soir in which the music evokes the mysterious relation of colors, sounds and scents. Debussy matches the structure of the poem where the second and fourth lines of one quatrain become the first and third of the next. Indeed, where Baudelaire uses the phrase "valse melancolique" Debussy introduces a waltz fragment. This group of melodies is given a beautiful treatment in John Adam's excellent orchestration. I find Debussy's early music revelatory and his melodies are seldom more appealing and sensual than in this early opus.

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