Work

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune

Twentieth-century

The Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune is one of the most renowned and appreciated works by Debussy, thanks to its intoxicating sweetness and colorful expressivity. Composed between 1892 and its premier in 1894, the tone poem has unceasingly delighted and surprised audiences with its musical innovations, including Debussy’s unapologetic, yet novel, trust he placed in the woodwinds’ rich and complex sound. The source of inspiration comes from Mallarmé’s eponymous poem, as Debussy writes, “The music of this prelude is a very free illustration of Mallarmé's beautiful poem. By no means does it claim to be a synthesis of it, but it evokes its various atmospheres”. These words are probably the first and rough definition of a never before seen composition method, which would later be aptly named “Impressionism in music”. With such a colorful orchestration teeming with warm emotions and sentiments, it’s easy to see a “musical Monet” in Debussy, whose music “impresses” the faun’s tale upon the listener. No doubt, the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune is a prime example of musical Impressionism!

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Inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé’s poetic verses, Debussy’s symphonic poem Prélude à l’Après-midi d'un faune is a part of an unfinished triptict concerning the mythological figure of the faun, the mythological flutist half-man, half-goat of Greek lore. Debussy pushed the orchestral envelope with Prélude à l’après-midi du faune, seeking new harmonic possibilities by using atypical scales. He drew out new voices from the orchestra by assigning the main theme to wind instruments, indicating in the score to play with a “sweet and expressive” (“doux et expressif”) sound. His creative endeavors were not in vain, as the composer Pierre Boulez affirmed: “the faun’s flute brought a new breath to the art of music”. Evoking the atmosphere of Mallarmé’s poem, Debussy’s prelude shines with the Mediterranean’s light and warmth in the summer days’ voluptuous heat. Slipping into his idyllic slumber, the faun “can finally realize his dreams of possession in universal nature”, as the author explained his vision. Come and join “the eternal swarm of desire”, and listen to the best interpretations of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, on medici.tv!