Debussy’s “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair,” Krystian Zimerman

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

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

5 thoughts on “Debussy’s “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair,” Krystian Zimerman”

  1. Beautiful, ethereal, a window into a world I love to Inhabit through the miracle of beautiful recordings such as this one. I would say of all the great composers, there are seven or eight who, over the course of history have drastically changed the direction of music and Debussy is definitely one of them. Thank you for this wonderful site!

  2. > Listening to this piece is like entering the world of a portrait by one of the great
    > Impressionist painters.

    This is exactly how I feel, although I understand he didn’t like his music being compared to Impressionist painting. Oh well….. 🙂

  3. I leave this sight with a tearful farewell overcome as I am by the beautiful music.
    I would like to dedicate my comment to my deceased wonderful wife Kathryn

  4. My husband, who passed away recently, loved this piece and introduced me to it. I always asked him to play “the girl with the flaxen hair” for me. With tears in his eyes, he complied. He taught me so much and left a large collection of classical lps and cds. I will be eternally grateful for his love of classical music and, in particular this Debussy piece that is so haunting and beautiful. To my wonderful husband, Bill.


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