Debussy/Arr Stallman - Petite Suite for flute and piano

Debussy/Arr Stallman - Petite Suite for flute and piano

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  • Debussy’s Petite Suite is one of several four-hand piano works Debussy composed before the advent of gramophone recordings, when this sociable musical form was still at the height of its popularity.  Aptly, but somewhat atypically, Debussy chose to write his Suite in a popular vein.  He had just completed two ground-breaking sets of songs on poems by Mallarme and Verlaine, and perhaps he felt it was time to shift gears and make a direct appeal to the public with a more approachable musical form and style.  The Suite is full of charm, wit and catching melodies.  Its harmonies are pleasantly conservative, yet affecting, and gracefully skirt Debussy’s penchant for radical, otherworldly explorations and disruptions.

    First performed in 1889 by the young composer and his future publisher Jacques Durand for the Paris elite at a private salon concert, the Suite was, alas, not the hit that Debussy had hoped for.  In 1907 his friend Henri Busser changed all that with his superb orchestration of the piano version, at Debussy’s request. Within a short time the work became immensely popular.  In particular the themes of the dreamy “En Bateau” (first movement) and the sassy burlesque finale “Ballet” are still enjoyed today as some of Debussy’s best loved melodies.

    Recently Edition Svitzer issued another Debussy arrangement of mine, the Six Epigraphes Antiques for Flute and Piano, a work also originally composed for piano duet.  Both the Suite and the Epigraphes adapt themselves ideally to the flute, an instrument to which Debussy was keenly drawn, not only for its vocal sonority, but also because of its possibilities for primal and evocative expressivity.

    I hope that, along with Syrinx and the Trio Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp, both of these works will soon become important additions to our solo repertoire---not just for us flutists, but for all Debussy lovers.

    Robert Stallman
    January 6, 2019
    Marblehead, Massachusetts

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