Jim Cotter Recommends...

Jan 27, 2011

Music for Un-Romantics:
"Clair de Lune" from Claude Debussy's Suite bergamasque

Not being romantic is the mark of certain men, of a certain age. I never buy flowers on Valentine's Day; I do so whenever I see really nice flowers for sale. This is why Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune," the third movement of his Suite bergamasque, is the perfect piece of music for me and for all fellow un-romantics. Read More

A bergamasque is a village dance from Bergamo in Northern Italy. Its defining feature is its lack of grace, if not actual clumsiness. This perfectly encapsulates my own romantic faculties - awkward, ungainly, but occasionally interpreted as a thing of beauty.

Debussy began writing "Clair de Lune" or "Moonlight" in his late twenties, but only finished it under commercial pressures at age 43. It opens with a simple, dream-like motif and continues in a plaintiff style. As the composer explores the theme, the playing becomes more emphatic and then tapers off. It then swells to a more lush, complex melody with beautiful counterpoint. It returns to the simple, understated melody of its opening before ending. Throughout, it feels as though the composer is putting into music a particular description of beauty.

"Clair de Lune" is like all great art; it's easily understood and appreciated on first meeting. It evokes in the listener a sense of well-being, of connectedness with the universe - a feeling that it will all work out fine. It's sort of like the feeling of being in love...if you believe in such things.--Jim

Debussy: Clair de Lune & Other Piano Favorites
Francois-Joel Thiollier, pianist

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