Debussy - Text and Ideas: Debussy, Banville and the Problem with Fixed-Form Poems

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The influence of French poet Théodore de Banville (1823-1891) on Debussy is generally thought to have been limited to the early years of the composer’s development. Yet by composing his Trois Chansons de Charles d’Orléans (1908) and Trois Ballades de François Villon (1910), after setting a further two of Charles d’Orléans’ Rondels in the Trois Chansons de France (1904), Debussy was quite clearly following in the footsteps of his early poetic hero. Dr David Evans offers an analysis of Debussy’s Villon and Orléans settings read in relation to Banville’s Trente-six Ballades à la manière de François Villon (1873) and Rondels à la manière de Charles d’Orléans (1875). For Debussy, Dr Evans suggests, these songs’ inventive use of fixed form poems allowed him to explore the aesthetic tension between past and future, tradition and innovation, novelty and cliché, inviting us to reflect on where, precisely, ‘genuine’ music is to be heard in the early years of the twentieth century.

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This event was on Thu, 12 Apr 2012


Dr David Evans

David Evans is Senior Lecturer in French at the University of St Andrews. He works on musico-poetic relationships in the nineteenth century, especially questions of...

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