Bret Pimentel, woodwinds
Kumiko Shimizu, piano
Delta State University Department of Music
Recital Hall, Bologna Performing Arts Center
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Syrinx (La flûte de Pan)
Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918)
- Menuet (from Suite Bergamasque)
from Children’s Corner
- Jimbo’s Lullaby
- The Little Shepherd
- Golliwogg’s Cakewalk
Achille-Claude Debussy (1862-1918) is widely regarded as a leading practitioner of what, in his words, “some fools call Impressionism,” a term he felt was too narrow for his style. His works were crucial to the transition from the Romantic 19th century into the Modernist 20th, and hinted at each while fully embracing neither.
The Syrinx for solo flute was written in 1912 as incidental music for a play. The title refers to the chaste nymph from Greek mythology, who becomes a set of musical pipes in an attempt to avoid the romantic advances of the god Pan. The piece’s rhythmic and harmonic freedom are hallmarks of Debussy’s style.
The Rapsodie for saxophone was written during a period from 1903 to 1911 to fulfill a commission by wealthy American amateur Elise Hall, referred to in Debussy’s correspondence as the “Femme-saxophone” (the “saxophone lady”). Debussy was less than enchanted with Hall (and with the pink dress she liked to wear in performance), and also pessimistic about her ability to execute difficult technical passages. Debussy’s original version avoids any serious challenges in the saxophone part; contemporary saxophonists almost always play Eugene Rousseau’s edition, which reassigns some of the more virtuosic material to the saxophonist.
Two piano works, Reverie (1890) and the Menuet from Suite Bergamasque (1905), are presented here in arrangement for oboe and piano. Reverie was an early publication and reflects a charming but not-quite-mature style that embarrassed Debussy in his later career; the Menuet represents a more sophisticated and colorful harmonic approach.
Children’s Corner (1908) is a suite of short, witty piano pieces (arranged here for bassoon and piano) dedicated to Debussy’s daughter, Claude-Emma: “To my dear little Chouchou, with her father’s affectionate apologies for what follows.” The English titles are thought to reflect the games a young French girl might learn from a British nanny.
The Petite Pièce and the Première Rapsodie, both completed in 1910, are fruits of Debussy’s ongoing involvement with his alma mater, the Paris Conservatory. Both pieces were written as examination pieces for Conservatory clarinet students, with the Petite Pièce intended for sight-reading exams and the Première Rapsodie used as a competition piece. The fluently idiomatic writing testifies to Debussy’s grasp of the instrument’s expressive possibilities, and the technical and interpretive challenges testify to the high ability level of the Conservatory’s student clarinetists.