Composed between 1909 and 1913, Claude Debussy’s twenty four solo piano Préludes are divided into two books. Unlike the Preludes of Chopin or J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, they do not form a sequential harmonic procession. Instead, they float ephemerally between traditional tonality and modal harmony, and the pentatonic and whole tone scales. They emerge as dreamy, atmospheric vignettes.
Bruyères is the fifth Prélude from Book II. Translating as “heather,” it “evokes pastoral bliss, an Arcadian landscape of peace and contentment,” and “according to Debussy’s good friend, the pianist Marguerite Long, it recalls the smell of sea mist mixed with coastal pines.” (Craig Sheppard) At moments, the music becomes a hazy recollection of Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin (“The Girl with the Flaxen Hair”), the eighth Prélude from Book I. Both develop from a single melodic thread which seems to drift suddenly and magically into our consciousness.
Here is Krystian Zimerman’s live concert recording from 1993:
- Debussy: Préludes – Book 2, L.123 – 5. Bruyères, Krystian Zimerman deutschegrammophon.com
Featured Image: “The Cliff Walk at Pourville” (1882), Claude Monet