COMPOSED BY

Claude Debussy (Aug 1862 – Mar 1918) in 1894

DURATION

Approximately 12 minutes

Instrumentation

3 flutes, 2 oboes and English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 harps, antique cymbals, strings

SUMMARY OF THE COMPOSITION

Inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem L’après-midi d’un faune, Claude Debussy wrote Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) in 1894 as a symphonic poem for orchestra. This piece was a huge turning point in music as Debussy stretched the traditional system of keys and tonalities to the limits, inspiring many great musicians including Leonard Bernstein and Boulez in turn.

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About the Composition

This piece follows the tale of a mythical faun who plays his pipes in the woods alone. Enchanted by nymphs and naiads, he drifts off to sleep, entering into colourful dreams. The calm afternoon in the forest is evoked through a dreamy opening flute tune with smooth melodies and almost improvisatory passages.

WHO IS ... Claude Debussy?

Suprising fun facts

  • Came from a non-musical family: his father owned a china shop, and his mother was a seamstress.
  • Started his studies at the Paris Conservatoire at 10. 
  • Never placed higher than fourth in any piano competitions.
  • Started the modern period of classical music.
  • La mer wasn’t well received at first , after Debussy caused outrage by leaving his wife. 

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