Debussy’s “Danseuses de Delphes”: Homage to Ancient Caryatids

In 1894, a team of French archeologists discovered the toppled ruins of elaborate caryatids which adorned the Acanthus Column near the Temple of Apollo in the Ancient Greek city of Delphi. As sculptures representing female figures, caryatids form pillars throughout Greek architecture. The graceful, flowing Dancers of Delphi, constructed around 330 BC and now forever free of their structural burden, remain frozen in motion.

The first of Claude Debussy’s 24 Préludes for solo piano is a musical homage to the Dancers of Delphi, which the composer saw in the form of a reproduction at the Louvre. Marked Lent et grave, the music evokes a sense of solemnity, timelessness, and mystery. Chords, rooted in the piano’s lower register, suggest the weight and permanence of stone columns. As with the sculpture, strength and solidity meet the sensuousness of dance and the female form.


  • Debussy: Préludes / Book 1, L.117, Danseuses de Delphes, Krystian Zimerman Amazon

Featured Image: the Dancers of Delphi, photograph by Cenk Eronat

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.

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