Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Prélude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune, Claude Debussy

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, commonly known by its English title Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, is a Symphonic poem for orchestra by Claude Debussy, approximately 10 minutes in duration. It was first performed in Paris on December 22, 1894 conducted by Gustave Doret.

The composition was inspired by the poem L'Après-midi d'un faune by Stéphane Mallarmé , and later formed the basis for a ballet choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky . It is one of Debussy's most famous works and is considered a turning point in the history of music; composer-conductor Pierre Boulez even dates the awakening of modern music from this score, observing that "the flute of the faun brought new breath to the art of music." It is a work that barely grasps onto tonality and harmonic function.

About his composition Debussy wrote:

The music of this prelude is a very free illustration of Mallarmé's beautiful poem. By no means does it claim to be a synthesis of it. Rather there is a succession of scenes through which pass the desires and dreams of the faun in the heat of the afternoon. Then, tired of pursuing the timorous flight of nymphs and naiads , he succumbs to intoxicating sleep, in which he can finally realize his dreams of possession in universal Nature.

Paul Valéry reported that Mallarmé himself was unhappy with his poem being used as the basis for music: "He believed that his own music was sufficient, and that even with the best intentions in the world, it was a veritable crime as far as poetry was concerned to juxtapose poetry and music, even if it were the finest music there is."

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