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Achille-Claude Debussy

Achille-Claude Debussy Composer

En blanc et noir, for 2 pianos, L.134 (poetic epigraphs)

Performances: 18
Tracks: 52
  • En blanc et noir, for 2 pianos, L.134 (poetic epigraphs)
    Year: 1915
    Genre: Other Keyboard
    Pr. Instrument: Piano Duo
    • 1.Qui reste a sa place: Avec emportement (Barbier et Carre)
    • 2.Prince, porte soit des serfs: Lent. Sombre (Villon)
    • 3.Yver, vous n'estes qu'un vilain: Scherzando (Charles d'Orleans)
Debussy composed his piano duo En blanc et noir (In black and white; 1915) during a late creative outburst that also included the Études for piano (1915) and the completion of his edition of Chopin's works for the publisher Durand. The three sections of this suite are brilliant and colorful and seem more inspired (if no more original) than the Études. The work's originality was, apparently, recognized from the beginning: It was the premiere of En blanc et noir that prompted Saint-Saëns to exclaim, "One must at all costs bar the doors of the Institute to a gentleman capable of such atrocities!"

All three sections are highly effective and convey a depth of feeling occasionally lacking in the Études, but which resurfaces in the composer's final works, the Sonata No. 1 in D minor for cello and piano (1915) and the Sonata No. 3 in G major for violin and piano (1916-1917). The first section, "Avec emportement" (With passion) is an energetic waltz that foreshadows the spirit of Ravel's La valse (1919-1920) though lacks that work's sardonic nostalgia. "Lent sombre" (Slow and somber) was composed in memory of Debussy's friend Jacques Charlot, killed in World War I. This section, marked by a particular complexity, begins and ends with elegiac passages that flank a central Allegro, which itself spans the emotional gamut from despair to elation. (At one point Debussy quotes from the hymn A Mighty Fortress is Our God.) The concluding section, Scherzando, is dedicated to Stravinsky; however, it has more in common with the impish humor of "Scarbo" from Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit (1908) than with anything Stravinsky ever wrote. The shortest and least serious section of the suite, the Scherzando brings the work to a spirited close.

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