The flute’s tenderness siren speak to emerges, solitary and also alluring. It wanders easily from C-sharp under to G-natural and earlier again, drifting hazily right into our consciousness, and also beckoning us forward with quiet, seductive power.
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This is how we enter the sensuous dreamscape that Claude Debussy’s colorful and also fleeting 1894 tone poem, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude come the Afternoon the a Faun). Debussy’s inspiration arose from a poem by the French symbolist, Stéphane Mallarmé. It depicts a faun who, after awakening indigenous a nap top top a sultry summer afternoon, contemplates his encounter with a team of nymphs. The scene occupies a blurry world somewhere in between dreaming and also waking. There is a sense of chasing and also attempting to master the ephemeral. Memory becomes illusive. Perhaps what seemed concrete was just a dream?
Debussy readily available this description:
The music of this prelude is a very complimentary illustration that Mallarmé’s beautiful poem. By no means does it insurance claim to it is in a synthesis of it. Rather there is a sequence of scenes v which happen the desires and also dreams that the faun in the warmth of the afternoon. Then, tired of pursuing the timorous trip of nymphs and also naiads, the succumbs come intoxicating sleep, in which the can ultimately realize his dreams of possession in global Nature.
For the twentieth century composer Pierre Boulez, this was the item that stood for the awakening of modern-day music:
The flute the the Faun brought new breath come the art of music; what was overthrown was no so lot the art of development, as the really concept of kind itself… the reservoir the youth in the score defies depletion and also exhaustion.
In Afternoon the a Faun, we uncover ourselves floating through the strange landscape on the other side that Tristan und Isolde’s final, death-inducing resolution. Wagner’s Tristan is constantly in find of its final moment the transfiguration. In contrast, Afternoon of a Faun is content to savor the moment. We are reminded of Debussy’s well known statement to his teacher, “There is no theory. Girlfriend merely have to listen. Pleasure is the law.”
Afternoon that a Faun retains the signposts of classic tonal music. ~ teasing united state with limitless modulations and also harmonic ambiguity, it fades far in a definitive home vital of E major—a key subtly argued in the opening bars, yet then evaded. Its an initial real cadence lands on B major. However in in between these points, everything solid melts away. Rate becomes liquid amid alternating meters that 6/8 and also 9/8. The dissonant expression of the augmented fourth (or tritone) is a persistent visibility from the opening flute statement. This interval, i m sorry Leonard Bernstein called “the absolute negation the tonality,” opens the door come the whole tone scale, which floats right into an exotic sound civilization which is neither significant or minor. Echos that Wagner’s “Tristan chord” emerge and dissolve. (Listen come the half diminished saturday chord i m sorry springs the end of the opened flute solo and also returns later roughly measure 18). In Debussy’s opening bars, we endure the deep, secret silences that the Tristan Prelude, in addition to its fluid chromaticism.
Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune is magical and intangible. That unfolds in the moment, supplying an unending currently of shimmering, pastel colors. Its orgasm throbs with rapturous passion, and then evaporates right into the haze of a summer afternoon.
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Photograph: Illustration by Léon Bakst for the ballet, Afternoon of a Faun, ~ Debussy’s musicAbout Timothy Judd
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