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Sonata for Cello and Piano (Claude Debussy)




1. Prologue : Lent – 2. Sérénade : Modérément animé – 3. Finale : Animé


In a letter dated 22 July 1915, Debussy announced to Jacques Durand a projected set of six sonatas for different combinations of instruments, which he wished to sign “Claude Debussy, musicien français”. On 6 October, he informed his publisher of the completion of the first sonata, for cello and piano, and the second one, for flute, viola and harp, “in the old form, so versatile (without the grandiloquence of modern sonatas)”. In August of that year he had already expressed to Durand his satisfaction with the Cello Sonata: “It is not for me to judge its excellence, but I like its proportions and its almost classical form, in the good sense of the word.” The reference to music of the past is clear in the neo-Renaissance colours of the modality, the proud and stately rhythm of a French overture at the beginning of the Prologue, the traces of sonata form in the outer movements. But there is nothing here of the pastiche or the stylistic exercise: the music clearly bears its author’s imprint. Debussy combines nostalgia with painful accents, an anxious restlessness and a capricious lightness, especially in the Sérénade, with the amazing mobility of its tempo. According to the cellist Louis Rosoor, the middle movement evokes the song of Pierrot Lunaire, scorned by his beloved, but Debussy denied any such reference in this work. A distant allusion to Spain may however be detected in the stylised strumming of a guitar heard in this movement. The Sérénade leads into a “light and nervous” Finale, which brings to a whirlwind conclusion a sonata that is constantly moving from laughter to tears, and whose conciseness and economy of means put paid to eloquence.

    Person - 1
  • DEBUSSY, Claude (1862-1918)
  • Themes - 2
  • Instruments à cordes – L’École française de violoncelle
  • Musique de chambre – La sonate pour violoncelle en France