DEBUSSY Claude, Cello Sonata

Prologue. Lent, sostenuto e molto risoluto – Poco animando
Sérénade. Modérément animé
Final. Animé, léger et nerveux


‘Where is French music? Where are the old harpsichordists who had so much true music?’ It was thoughts like this that prompted Debussy to embark on a series of sonatas at the start of World War One. Weakened by cancer, he only lived to complete three of them. The Cello Sonata was the first to be finished, in the summer of 1915, and it was originally going to have a title: ‘Pierrot angry with the moon’. As well as its links to a vanished past, the Cello Sonata has debts to more recent music including use of a cyclic theme. Debussy used this device in his early String Quartet but now there is greater refinement and austerity. The first movement opens with a gesture that introduces the motif which unites many of the musical ideas in the work (and which recalls Baroque ornamentation). The second movement is a ghostly Serenade full of enigmatic harmonies, and this leads to a more flowing and animated finale which seems reluctant to settle until the closing D minor chords.


© Nigel Simeone 2015


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