Clair de lune by Debussy

One of the most famous pieces of music ever written:

Composed originally in 1890 (but not published until 1905), “Clair de lune” is the third movement in a set of four pieces known as Suite bergamesque. Debussy based it on Paul Verlaine’s poem of the same name:

Clair de lune (Moonlight)

Votre âme est un paysage choisi (Your soul is a delicate landscape)

Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques (Where roam charming masks and bergamasques)

Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi (Playing the lute and dancing and seeming almost)

Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques. (Sad under their whimsical disguises.)

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur (While singing in a minor key)

L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune (Of victorious love and easy life)

Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur (They don’t seem to believe in their happiness)

Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune, (And their song mingles with the moonlight,)

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau, (With the sad and beautiful moonlight,)

Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres (Which makes the birds in the trees dream)

Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau, (And sob with ecstasy the water streams,)

Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres. (The great slim water streams among the marbles.)

“Clair de lune” follows an ABA form: the opening theme (played in third intervals) returns to close out the work. This still, beautiful music constantly shifts – agitation and peace alternate as the work builds up to the middle section. The middle is new material based on the third interval motif. Full of sweeping arpeggios, the music moves and paints color after shimmering color.

“Clair de lune” creates a beautiful picture in the listener’s mind. Do you think Debussy captured the essence of Verlaine’s poem?

For more information on Clair de lune, check out this post here.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. DJ Carpio says:

    So beautifully played Kathryn as always. Yes, essence perfectly captured.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad you like it.


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