4 Apr 2016

Curtain Raiser: Debussy - Nocturnes

From the collecton Curtain Raiser

“Music has this over painting in that it can bring together all different aspects of colour and light at the same time.” - Claude Debussy

Nocturne by Whistler

Nocturne by Whistler Photo: Public Domain

Inspired by the paintings of Whistler, Debussy creates three moody impressions.

Debussy did not usually comment on his music, preferring to let it stand or fall on its own merits, but with the Nocturnes he gave audiences a rare glimpse into his thought processes with an introductory programme note that reveals the influence of these painters’ sensibilities on his own thinking, with its reliance on light, mystery, and impression to characterise his music.


He wrote: “The title Nocturnes is to be interpreted here in a general and, more particularly, in a decorative sense. Therefore, it is not meant to designate the usual form of the Nocturne, but rather all the various impressions and the special effects of light that the word suggests. Nuages renders the immutable aspect of the sky and the slow, solemn motion of the clouds, fading away in an agony of grey lightly tinged with white.”

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