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Claude Debussy / Swing

Rick Rogers Published: December 9, 2012

On this day in classical music: Claude Debussy’s “Nuages” and “Fêtes” (two of the three “Nocturnes” for orchestra) were given their premiere in Paris at a Lamoureux concert conducted by Camille Chevillard in 1900. “Nuages” (Clouds) and “Fêtes” (Festivals) would be joined by “Sirènes” (Sirens) to complete the orchestral suite inspired by a series of impressionist paintings by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Listen to the Texas Festival Orchestra perform “Fêtes.” Pascal Verrot conducts.

Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy

On this day in the musical theatre: “Swing,” a musical revue that celebrated the music of the Swing era, opened on Broadway in 1999. The eclectic score featured popular hits by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and numerous others. Containing no dialogue, the story was told entirely through music and dance. The musical featured choreography by Lynne Taylor-Corbett. “Swing” ran for 461 performances and was nominated for three Tony Awards.

Swing! - Original Broadway Cast
Swing! - Original Broadway Cast

Musical musings: “The title Nocturnes is to be interpreted here in a general and, more particularly, in a decorative sense. Therefore, it is not meant to designate the usual form of the Nocturne, but rather all the various impressions and the special effects of light that the word suggests. ‘Nuages’ renders the immutable aspect of the sky and the slow, solemn motion of the clouds, fading away in grey tones lightly tinged with white. ‘Fêtes’ gives us the vibrating, dancing rhythm of the atmosphere with sudden flashes of light. There is also the episode of the procession (a dazzling fantastic vision), which passes through the festive scene and becomes merged in it. But the background remains resistantly the same: the festival with its blending of music and luminous dust participating in the cosmic rhythm. ‘Sirènes’ depicts the sea and its countless rhythms and presently, amongst the waves silvered by the moonlight, is heard the mysterious song of the Sirens as they laugh and pass on.” – introductory notes written by Claude Debussy


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