«Préludes» by Claude Debussy — the Idea of the Work as a Cycle

Tijana P. Mladjenović, Ivana P. Lozo


Claude Debussy’s «Préludes» are 24 pieces for solo piano divided into two books of 12 preludes each. Since every miniature represents well-balanced entirety, it could be performed separately, which is most common case. Our research question is as follows: is it possible to consider Debussy’s 24 preludes as a cycle, rather than a collection, and if it does, which are integrative factors that relate all levels of the pieces and affect integral perception of «Préludes»? In different writings on Debussy’s opus, we found various perspectives and approaches in focusing on the «Préludes» (for example, Paul Roberts, Siglind Bruhn, Roy Howat, Simon Trezise, Boyd Pomeroy, Ralph P. Locke, etc).

What we realised is that none of aforementioned authors focus on the «Préludes» as a cycle with a very specific musical dramaturgy.

The reason why we consider that the 24 miniatures together form the cycle lies in the fact that there are a number of integrative factors that relate to different musical components and their elements throughout of the whole work and affect the integral perception of «Préludes». These integrative factors derive from Debussy’s uttermost specific compositional principles and compositional procedures, as well as compositional-technical solutions based on which a complete musical-dramatic flow is being built, in terms of:
- shaping the entire musical flow on principles of building a structure out of fragments, that is, very specific thematic work;
- textural organization;
- specific type of melodic material;
- harmony solutions;
- dynamics, agogics, articulation and/or «character» of colour;
- specified components of temporal organization, that is, the «breathing» or «waves movement» of the musical flow.

Based on critical-analytical methodology, this paper will emphasize Debussy’s «free creativity» that lies in his 24 preludes and our comprehension of them as a cycle with a very specific musical dramaturgy.

Keywords: Claude Debussy, Préludes, cycle, integrative factors, specific musical dramaturgy

For citation: Mladjenović T. P., Lozo I. P. «Préludes» by Claude Debussy — the Idea of the Work as a Cycle [Electronic source]. In: Sovremennye problemy muzykoznaniya / Contemporary Musicology, 2019, no. 4, pp. 33–67. DOI: 10.56620/2587-9731-2019-4-033-067


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.56620/2587-9731-2019-4-033-067

Copyright (c) 2019 Tijana P. Mladjenović; Ivana P. Lozo

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