program notes by composition > F > Fetes from Three Nocturnes

Fetes from Three Nocturnes

Claude Debussy/arr. William A. Schaefer

Fêtes (Festivals) is the second of Three Nocturnes. Debussy imagined "the restless dancing rhythms of the atmosphere, interspersed with sudden flashes of light." After the exciting opening section, a procession starts as if approaching from a distance. Debussy described it as "a wholly visionary pageant, passing through and blending with the revelry; the background of the uninterrupted festival persisting; luminous dust participating in the universal rhythms." The music ends with the repetition of the opening measures, fading in the distance.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was the most influential French composer of his generation. He was born in St. Germain-en-Laye to a seamstress and a shopkeeper. As a student at the Paris Conservatory for 11 years he won honors for excellence though he found routine work distasteful. He is considered the founder and chief exponent of the school of modern French impressionism, a term he resisted. His compositions employed non-traditional scales and tonal structures, seeming at first, bewildering in their imaginative, atmospheric quality. His music is noted for its sensory component and how it is not often formed around one key or pitch. His compositions, distinctive and appealing, combined modernism and sensuality so successfully that their sheer beauty often obscures their technical innovation. Today, his delicate and poetic harmonies are regarded with great favor.

Last updated on July 30, 2013 by Palatine Concert Band