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World premiere of version
Megaron, Athens
Greek Radio Symphony Orchestra / Nikos Christodoulou
Composer's Notes

Debussy orchestrated piano works by Satie, as well as his own (La plus que lente). He also often encouraged, or collaborated in orchestrations of some of his piano compositions and other works by other musicians.

The orchestration of the Debussy Preludes - Book 2 was done with a compositional motive, as essentially an orchestration is a structure in itself and a ‘dialogue’ between the inner elements - melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, formal and expressive - that constitute the work. Orchestration is an exploration of the original’s essence, not added on clothing. The wonderful expressive range of the Preludes is naturally related to the orchestration. Yet it is their ‘abstract’, pure musical quality, as, for instance, the astonishing harmonic structure, that primarily stimulates the orchestration. The orchestral work is also faithful to the original piano work. Debussy, in composing and in ‘orchestrating’ his elaborate piano textures, has very carefully shaped individual voices, registers and their often intricate relations in a rich canvas. In the orchestration, additional doublings at the octave (a usual practice in orchestrations) are avoided, as doubling notes or lines above or below would mar the wonderful evolving shape of the original registers and voices.

The Debussy Preludes have an extraordinary originality of harmony and form. They have a unique, elusive atmosphere with a wide palette of moods – vibrant, tender, energetic, passionate, wistful, eerie, witty, distant and so on, while Debussy, much more than almost any other composer, insists in his score on giving continuous expressive instructions. The second Book of Preludes, written in 1910-12, is an independent work, not a continuation of the first Book, being also harmonically more advanced.

A mark of Debussy’s uncommon individuality is that the titles of the Preludes are not placed at the top, but below the last stave of each Prelude, written in parentheses and after dots, e.g. (... Brouillards); they are ‘after-titles’, functioning not as an introducing inscription, but as a kind of a poetic a posteriori suggestion, or reminiscence.

Three of the twelve Preludes, Nos. I (Brouillards), VI ("General Lavine" - eccentric) and X (Canope), were orchestrated in 1986, when I was studying in Germany. The other nine Preludes were orchestrated in 2007-9. The first performance of the complete set of twelve orchestrated Preludes was given in 2012, Debussy’s anniversary year.
Nikos Christodoulou, November 2014

(The work at Settembre Musica 2016)

Programme Note

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