La fille aux cheveux de lin (“The Girl with the Flaxen Hair”) is the eighth piece in Book I of Claude Debussy’s solo piano Préludes, written around 1910. The title was inspired by an 1852 poem by Leconte de Lisle.
A single, meandering line pulls us into the ephemeral, dreamlike world this music inhabits. Listen to the way the harmony, built largely on the floating, static pentatonic scale, shifts around this melody in unexpected ways.
Listening to this piece is like entering the world of a portrait by one of the great Impressionist painters. We become captivated with the play of light and shadow, the enigmatic expression on the subject’s face, the blend of innocence, sensuality, and quiet lament. The longer we give the art our attention, the more we see.
- Debussy: Préludes, Krystian Zimerman (1993 live performance) Amazon
Photograph: Jeune fille blonde cousant (1875), Pierre-Auguste Renoir