( Debussy, Préludes, vol. II, no. 5)
English translations of the French noun bruyère include the flower heather, the brier wood, and the heath as a type of landscape. Since the word is here used in its plural form, it seems most likely that Debussy had the flowers in mind.
While a French city-dweller will most commonly associate the word heath with the patches of wasteland found around many urban areas in France, the poetic allusion to heather flowers rather implies a longing for undisturbed rural scenes and hints at natural mysticism, fashionable among artists of the time. As Debussy scholars have pointed out, the melodic structure of this prelude is reminiscent of Breton and Celtic folk song. The allusion thus points to a rather humble flower growing in and ground, in regions with often inclement weather, large clouds and powerful thunderstorms--far removed from the sophisticated society life of cities and stylish resort areas. Through this image speaks a quest for simplicity without sweetness, a quest equally conveyed in the musical language.
The prelude is clad in a very simple, folklike structure, and uses almost pictorially evocative material. The design is ternary on the larger scale as well as, in the middle section, on a small scale:
|A||=||bars 1-22||B||= bars||23-37||A′||= bars||38-51|
The initial tune, introduced as an unaccompanied melisma, is pentatonic (comprising the pitches E≭ F G B≭ C). It consists of a two-bar subphrase that begins on the keynote, E≭, swings gently downward without touching the lower E≭, and stops inconclusively on C. A one-bar subphrase then complements the melodic gesture, picking up the C and
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Images and Ideas in Modern French Piano Music:The Extra-Musical Subtext in Piano Works by Ravel, Debussy, and Messiaen. Contributors: Siglind Bruhn - Author. Publisher: Pendragon Press. Place of publication: Stuyvesant, NY. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 97.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.