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Classical Album of the Week: A Look at Debussy's Last Three Chamber Works

January 6, 2020. We're exploring the intimate late works of Claude Debussy this week. Composed at a time when Debussy was struggling with the emotional devastation of WW I and the diagnosis of a terminal illness, creating his final three chamber works gave him hope, and show him at the height of his genius.

Violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Tanguy de Williencourt give a sensitive account of the “Sonate for Violin  and Piano in G Minor.” A unique combination of instruments form the unusual tonal palette of the “Sonata for harp, viola and flute,” performed by Xavier de Maistre, harp; Antoine Tamestit, viola, and Magali Mosnier, flute. “The Sonata for Cello and Piano,” explores the wide range of both instruments; cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and pianist Javier Perianes bring both austerity and sweep to this remarkable late masterpiece.


Credit Wikipedia Commons
Claude Debussy in 1908

Interspersed between the sonatas, pianist Tanguy de Williencourt gives pensive, poetic interpretations of three short, late solo piano works of Debussy: “Berceuse heroïque,” “Page d’album - Pour l’Oeuvre du ‘Vêtement du blessé,” “Elégie,” and “Les soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon (“Evenings lit by the glow of coals.”)

Adding to the sonic aesthetic of this album, three of the instruments are historical: Ms. Faust plays the “Belle au boi dormant” Stradivarius, Mr. Tamestit plays the “Mahler” Stradivarius viola, and Ms. Mosnier plays a Louis Lot 1882 flute.

Album Tracks:

(all by Claude Debussy)
[Troisieme] Sonate pour violon et piano
Berceuse heroique
Page d’album--Pour l’Oeuvre du 'Vêtement du blessé'”
[Deuxieme] Sonate pour flute, alto et harpe
[Premiere] Sonate pour violoncelle et piano
“Les Soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon”


Debra's last day on the air at WRTI was September 21st, 2021. She's now the radio host for The Metropolitan Opera. Read more here.