Cycling fans who listen to Radio Tour de France know that every year the song “I’m going to France (I’m never coming back)” by the Amazing Stroopwafels is played several times. If you’re in a traffic jam you certainly think so! There are many musical reasons to move to France and I want to show you some of them.
Debussy, master of visual simplicity
Debussy was a controversial composer in his lifetime. If you listen to Debussy’s music now, we can’t imagine it at all. We know him as the composer who paints with sounds. Debussy was a revolutionary.
He was the first composer to focus on timbre and harmony and to vary tempo and structure within a composition. Almost all of his music sounds organic and flutters around you like a butterfly, but they are complex works. As a result, music almost tangibly and visibly depicts what the title indicates. His piano works “Images” literally means pictures. If you listen to “Reflets dans l’eau” (Reflections in the water), you will see the play of sunlight on moving water.
Debussy had the enormous talent to write music that not only does something to your hearing, but also stimulates other senses and draws you into the music. His compositional technique echoes for a long time in the works of French composers who came after him.
Many recordings have been made of “Images,” but there are two that I can’t choose from. Jean-Yves Thibaudet has played many premieres of works by French composers. Thibaudet is almost the personification of French music. His recording of the complete works of Debussy for solo piano takes you on a musical journey. You crawl into the melodies, these are very fine sounding recordings from the Decca label.
The concerts of Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli – just the name! – are legendary. He was an authority on the music of Debussy. Deutsche Grammophon has reissued his 1970 Debussy recordings in high res, including noise from the recording tape in the background. Michelangeli conjures breathtaking piano playing from his instrument, of a beauty that transforms Debussy’s music into something heavenly.
Debussy: Complete Works for Solo Piano Vol.2 – Images, Etudes – Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano), Decca, 2000
Debussy: Images 1 & 2 – Children’s Corner – Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano), Deutsche Grammophon, 1971