Debussy’s “Feuilles Mortes”: A Desolate Landscape

Feuilles mortes (“Dead Leaves”) is the second piece in Book II of Claude Debussy’s Préludes for solo piano.

Composed in 1913, the music suggests the vivid colors and atmosphere of an impressionistic painting. It evokes a bleak and desolate late autumn landscape—perhaps one in which a frost has already descended. Debussy’s interpretive marking is Lent et mélancolique. Filled with jazzy parallel chords, the music inhabits a haunting dreamscape. Quiet, ghostly ostinatos emerge and dissipate. The final bars drift away, offering no resolution. 

A 2012 recording of Debussy’s 24 Préludes, performed by the French pianist, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, was released in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth.


  • Debussy: Préludes – Book 2, L.123 – 2. Feuilles mortes · Pierre-Laurent Aimard Amazon

Featured Image: “The Frost” (1885), Claude Monet 

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.

2 thoughts on “Debussy’s “Feuilles Mortes”: A Desolate Landscape”

  1. Thank you very much for sharing this. I hadn’t heard this piece in a while and your article was a great opportunity to return to it.

    I have always been struck by “Des Pas Sur la Neige” from the first book of preludes; I believe this is another piece that evokes a sense of desolation and – not just a walk through snow – but walking through the snow at night time. Aimand did a great job with that piece too but Vikingur Olafsson also has a great interpretation on his Debussy-Rameau album.

    Thanks again and always for your wonderful website. I always read your posts and love learning about new music from you. I’m from Rochester, by the way – grew up listening to WXXI (Mordecai, Brenda) as a kid. I live in SoCal now.


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