Box Office 020 7520 1490 info@kingsplace.co.uk

Images of Debussy

Feature

Paul Roberts previews his lecture-recital on this French revolutionary

A hundred years after his death, Debussy’s place in the pantheon of great composers is unassailable.

Just as Impressionist painting changed visual art, and the way we see, so Debussy created a revolution in music and the way we listen. While remaining within the bounds of tonality his music broke away from traditions of harmonic, rhythmic and melodic structures that had reigned for centuries. In this he was as radical as the atonal composers who were his contemporaries: his music today still sounds strikingly modernist, although it is as approachable and gratifying as the equally celebrated work of the Impressionist painters. The concept of images – ‘pictures’ – is fundamental to our understanding of Debussy’s art. By employing the word as a generic term for a wide variety of compositions with highly evocative descriptive titles, he was exploring the nature of music as an art of suggestion, in keeping with the ethos of his Symbolist generation.

I’m examining the intentions of Debussy’s titles, his ‘pictures in music’, to show how, in piano music above all, sight and sound might be fused into a kind of magical realism. The individual tones of the piano are neutral, but ten fingers and a sustaining pedal can create a blending of harmonies and colour resonances that make us believe we are not listening to a piano.

‘In Debussy’s piano music, sight and sound are fused into a kind of magical realism’

And as in all the greatest art there can be a wide range of interpretations – ten different pianists can give ten wonderful performances, all of which are completely different, but still honour the intentions of the music.

Recommended articles

Rachel Podger - Lockdown Playlist

Feature

‘I love to listen to choral polyphony last thing at night, preferably with a candle burning’, says violinist Rachel Podger,…

Read the article

Harry Christophers - Lockdown Playlist

Feature

Harry Christophers, Artistic Director of our Associate, The Sixteen, shares his lock-down playlist: ‘Many of the tracks on my playlist…

Read the article

Nicholas Collon - Lockdown Playlist

Feature

Nicholas Collon, principal conductor of our resident Aurora Orchestra, shares his lock-down playlist: ‘If I haven’t instilled a love of…

Read the article

Brodsky Quartet: Rush-Hour Lates Series – Review of the Opening Concert

Reviews

Our young journalist, Hannah Dienes-Williams, reviews the opening concert in the Brodsky Quartet’s brand-new Rush-Hour Lates series which consists of…

Read the article

Bach the Dramatist

Feature

Bach Weekend 2020 has a theatrical flair, reveals director Martin Feinstein. The festival returns in April.

Read the article

20 shows for 2020

Feature

Our Nature Unwrapped 2020 programme opened last week with a spectacular series of events and performances from Theatre of Voices, Brian Cox,…

Read the article

Beethoven, Our Contemporary

Feature

As part of Beethoven 250, the Brodsky Quartet pair a single late string quartet with a short work in each…

Read the article

Noh and the Natural World

Feature

As Noh Reimagined returns to Kings Place in June 2020, curator Akiko Yanagisawa reflects on the centrality of nature to…

Read the article

The Sinking of the Titanic, Fifty Years On

Feature

Gavin Bryars reveals the impetus behind composing the work and some of the most eventful performances as we approach the…

Read the article

An Opera on the Sexual Revolution

Feature

Composer Alex Mills reflects on his thought-provoking chamber opera Dear Marie Stopes which premiered at the Wellcome Collection in 2018.

Read the article