Day 28 – Debussy Iberia + (CD 28)

My dad used to say, “I don’t care for that” whenever he’d encounter something with which he wasn’t fond. Like, “I don’t care for frozen peas” or “I don’t care for Monday mornings.”

Not, “I don’t like frozen peas” or “I don’t like Monday mornings,” mind you.

“I don’t care for that.”

After listening to this album 2-3 times through, I can’t honestly say I understand my dad.

To paraphrase brilliant dialogue from the TV series Frasier from the episode titled “Selling Out” (Season One, Episode Nine):

…at Cornell University they have an incredible piece of scientific equipment known as the tunneling electron microscope. Now, this microscope is so powerful that by firing electrons you can actually see images of the atom, the infinitesimally minute building blocks of our universe…if I were using that microscope right now, I still wouldn’t be able to locate my interest in [this music].

No matter how many times I listen to this, I can’t locate my interest in it.

In short, I don’t care for it.

Not even the vista from the second floor of my local library (my second favorite happy place) can infuse my listening with any kind of joy.

So I’m not going to fart around waxing verbose. I’m going to cut and run ASAP so that I can get back to doing things that interest me.

The Objective Stuff

From his entry on Wikipedia,

(Achille) Claude Debussy. (1862 – 1918) was a French composer. He is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer, although he vigorously rejected the term. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Born to a family of modest means and little cultural involvement, Debussy showed enough musical talent to be admitted at the age of ten to France’s leading music college, the Conservatoire de Paris. He originally studied the piano, but found his vocation in innovative composition, despite the disapproval of the Conservatoire’s conservative professors. He took many years to develop his mature style, and was nearly 40 when he achieved international fame in 1902 with the only opera he completed, Pelléas et Mélisande.

From its entry on Wikipedia,

Images pour orchestre, L 122, is an orchestral composition in three sections by Claude Debussy, written between 1905 and 1912. Debussy had originally intended this set of Images as a two-piano sequel to the first set of Images for solo piano, as described in a letter to his publisher Durand as of September 1905. However, by March 1906, in another letter to Durand, he had begun to think of arranging the work for orchestra rather than two pianos.

II. Ibéria (1905–1908)

Ibéria is the most popular of the three orchestral Images and itself forms a triptych within the triptych. Its sections are:

  1. Par les rues et par les chemins (Along the streets and along the paths)
  2. Les parfums de la nuit (The scents of the night)
  3. Le matin d’un jour de fête (The morning of a festive day) – a procession of a ‘banda de guitarras’

Impressions of Spain inspired this music. Richard Langham Smith has commented on Debussy’s own wish to incorporate ideas of juxtaposing elements of the visual arts in musical terms, including a quote from Debussy to Caplet from a letter of 26 February 1910: “You can’t imagine how naturally the transition works between ‘Parfums de la nuit’ and ‘Le Matin d’un jour de fête. Ça n’a pas l’air d’être écrit.”

Matthew Brown has briefly commented on Debussy’s use of techniques such as incomplete progressions, parenthetical episodes, and interpolations in Ibéria.

Debussy was 43-46 when he composed the second of his three sections. It was recorded on March 4, 1957, in Orchestra Hall.

From his entry on Wikipedia,

Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937) was a French composer, pianist and conductor. He is often associated with impressionism along with his elder contemporary Claude Debussy, although both composers rejected the term. In the 1920s and 1930s Ravel was internationally regarded as France’s greatest living composer.

Born to a music-loving family, Ravel attended France’s premier music college, the Paris Conservatoire; he was not well regarded by its conservative establishment, whose biased treatment of him caused a scandal. After leaving the conservatoire, Ravel found his own way as a composer, developing a style of great clarity and incorporating elements of modernism, baroque, neoclassicism and, in his later works, jazz. He liked to experiment with musical form, as in his best-known work, Boléro (1928), in which repetition takes the place of development. Renowned for his abilities in orchestration, Ravel made some orchestral arrangements of other composers’ piano music, of which his 1922 version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is the best known.

From its entry on Wikipedia,

The Valses nobles et sentimentales is a suite of waltzes composed by Maurice Ravel. The piano version was published in 1911, and an orchestral version was published in 1912. The title was chosen in homage to Franz Schubert, who had released collections of waltzes in 1823 entitled Valses nobles and Valses sentimentales. The piano edition is published with a quotation of Henri de Régnier: “…le plaisir délicieux et toujours nouveau d’une occupation inutile” (the delicious and forever-new pleasure of a useless occupation).

The suite contains an eclectic blend of Impressionist and Modernist music, which is especially evident in the orchestrated version.

Ravel composed this (the orchestral version) when he was 37. It was recorded on April 15, 1957 in Orchestra Hall, Chicago.

From its entry on Wikipedia,

Alborada del gracioso (“The Jester’s Aubade”, or other translations: see below) is a short orchestral piece by Maurice Ravel first performed in 1919. It is an orchestrated version of one of the five movements of his piano suite Miroirs, written in 1904–05. Originally created for a ballet, the work has entered the concert repertoire, and has been recorded frequently.

The title, in Spanish, has no exact English translation. It has been various rendered as “Morning Song of the Clown”, “The Jester’s Aubade”, and “Morning Song of the Buffoon”. Alborada, literally “dawn”, has a variety of musical meanings: it can be a lively folk-dance, a Galician folk tune, a type of rhythmically free instrumental music played on bagpipes and small drum, a song for a wedding day, or, as it is usually construed in the context of Ravel’s piece, a musical announcement of dawn, a sunrise song, the equivalent of a French or English aubade. In that sense, the roots of the term can be traced to the old troubadour and trouvère tradition in which the song portrayed the parting of two lovers at dawn. A gracioso was a figure from Spanish comedy, variously described as a jester or a clown, the classic genial buffoon, the standard grotesque lover, akin to Don Quixote, of ancient Castilian comedy, a humorous or amusingly entertaining person and a servant or squire who often comments satirically on the actions of his superiors

Ravel was 29 or 30 when he composed this. It was recorded on April 13, 1957, in Orchestra Hall, Chicago.

The Subjective Stuff

Recording quality: 4 (a little tape hiss evident)
Overall musicianship: 5
CD booklet notes: 2
CD “album cover” information: 4.5 (lots and lots of really tiny print)
How does this make me feel: 1

I really don’t know what to write about this that I haven’t already written above.

It’s busy, meandering, theatrical music with lots of cymbal crashes and, well, I don’t care for it.

‘Nuff said.

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