In a period when particularity in performance rapidly dwindles into generality, this paper casts a critical eye over Debussy performance in recent decades. The precept is that close attention to detailed readings of contemporary sources, such as exist for music of the Classical period, leads performers to modify their performances so as to create a style that they consider suitable for music of the period. As these readings become reflexive the performances take on general, non-specific characteristics; they merge back into the broad stream of performance. For the most part Debussy’s music has not been subject to close reading by theorists or practitioners of historically informed performance. Nevertheless, there existed in the years following his death performers informed of his preferences in performance, such as his preoccupation with nuance. Their knowledge might be broadly construed as the basis of a ‘Debussy style’ of performance. This paper asks where the rivers and tributaries of Debussy performance have taken us in the last few years. Has the tendency been towards generalised music making with little attention to specific qualities suited to the composer and his period? Focusing on the orchestral music, I ask if there is still (and, inevitably, if there has ever been) a Debussy performance style for the orchestral music.
6.C.4Pre-organised session - Interpreting and Listening to the Music of Debussy
Simon Trezise is an Associate Professor of Music at Trinity College Dublin. He wrote his doctorate for Oxford University on the subject of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder. Since then he has often specialised in French music, especially on Debussy. He is the author of a monograph on La mer and editor of Cambridge University Press’s Debussy Companion. He also edited the recently published companion to French Music, also for Cambridge University Press. Other writings include work on performance practice studied through recordings. With a colleague at Trinity College he is currently editing a volume on silent-film music for Routledge. Other interests include Wagner, Elgar, the Hollywood musical, and performance practice in general.
Trinity College Dublin Irelandstrezise@tcd.ie