Claude Debussy

Suite bergamasque, for piano, L. 82 (75)

    Description by Blair Johnston

    It is difficult to establish an appropriate chronological place for Claude Debussy's Suite bergamasque within his output. He originally composed the piece in 1890, but it was not published until 1905, and the extent to which he revised it during the interval is unclear. Certainly the published work is a great stylistic advance over the few short piano works which preceded it during the late 1880s and early 1890s, but whether that advance is due to an early maturity or to much later alteration will perhaps always elude historians.

    The Suite, Debussy's tribute to the French Baroque clavecinistes (harpsichordists), comprises four individual movements: Prélude, Menuet, Clair de lune, and Passepied. It is interesting to note that Debussy originally titled the third and fourth pieces "Promenade sentimentale" and "Pavane," respectively, and changed their titles only shortly before publishing the Suite in 1905. This has caused many to question the purported connection between the much-celebrated Clair de lune and Paul Verlaine's poem of the same name. However, Debussy's connection with Verlaine's poetry is far reaching enough for the association to be meaningful. He had already set the poem "Clair de lune," as well as several others, for voice and piano on two separate occasions by 1891, and the word bergamasque is itself contained within that particular text.

    The Prelude, an F major piece cast in ternary (ABA) form, unfolds in an aristocratic, unhurried way. The opening declamation, spanning some four octaves, is nobleness itself, while the B section, in A minor, is devoted to more thoughtful ideas. Perhaps the best music in the Prelude is contained within the lengthy passage that connects the middle section to the reprise of the opening. The Menuet presents the best glimpse of Debussy's emerging compositional voice. Save for its 3/4 meter there is little trace of the traditional minuet form to be found. Especially notable is the absence of a trio section. Clair de lune is perhaps the most famous work Debussy ever penned. Although Debussy's reliance on left-hand arpeggios throughout the piece can lead to a somewhat mechanical effect in the hands of less skilled performers, Clair de lune has a way of drawing the listener into its magical atmosphere. Particularly striking are the opening gestures, still and quiet, and a passage in parallel octaves that connects the opening to the more active middle-section. The Passepied that ends the Suite is cast in 4/4 time, betraying its origins as a pavane, since the traditional Passepied is invariably found in 3/4 time. As is the case with the Menuet, Debussy is making reference to an antiquated dance form without actually making use of it.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Prélude. Moderato (Tempo rubato)
    2. Menuet. Andantino
    3. Clair de lune. Andante très expressif
    4. Passepied. Allegretto ma non troppo

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Menuetto Classics
    2018 Menuetto Classics null
    2018 Menuetto Classics null
    2018 Warner Music null
    2018 Navona Records NV 6164
    2018 Musica Viva MV 120
    2018 Genuin GEN 18600
    2018 Willowhayne Records WHR 054
    2018 Menuetto Classics null
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon 4798642
    2018 Warner Classics null
    2018 Warner Classics
    2018 Harmonia Mundi HMM 902309
    2018 ABC Classics 4817517
    2018 ABC Classics ABC 4817518
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon 4835187
    2018 MSR Classics MS 1678
    2018 Decca
    2018 Decca
    2017 ICA Classics ICAB 5141
    2017 Ypsilon International YIL-002
    2017 Decca
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4798308
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295869199
    2017 Dacapo 82012020000
    2017 Sony Classical 88985395212
    2016 Hungaroton HCD 32768
    2016 Oehms Classics OC 1842
    2016 ABC Classics
    2016 Bella Musica BM 312465
    2015 SWR Music 93337
    2015 Discovery Music & Vision DMV 111
    2015 Musicus Recordings Musicus 1010
    2015 DUX / Dux Records DUX 1111
    2015 ABC Classics 4811742
    2015 Ondine ODE 12695
    2015 Ad Vitam AV 150715
    2015 Sony Classical 88843014702
    2014 Classic FM / Decca CFMD 34
    2014 Audite AUD 97699
    2014 Dynamic DYNCDS 7697
    2014 Alto ALC 1221
    2014 Classic FM CFMD 33
    2013 CAvi-music AVI 8553273
    2013 AAO Music / United Audio Entertainment UMMC 67052
    2013 TYX Art TXA 13022
    2012 Li-Sem Enterprises DKM 602
    2012 Newton Classics 8802093
    2012 Avie AVR 2256
    2012 Naxos 8509002
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94415
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099995591
    2012 Chandos CHAN 107435
    2012 Indesens IDS 41
    2012 Decca
    2012 Hyperion CDA 67898
    2012 Melodiya MYD 1001622
    2012 Alto 4002
    2012 Genuin GEN 12226
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099963875
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 4790056
    2012 Onyx ONYX 4095
    2011 Documents 232867
    2011 Centaur Records CRC3094/95/96/97
    2011 Regis / Regis Records RRC 4010
    2011 Naxos 8572593
    2011 BIS BISCD 1405
    2011 Mandala / Mandala Studio 06
    2011 AAO Music
    2011 Naxos 8572506
    2011 Bridge BRIDGE 9350
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099902831428
    2011 ZYX Music CLA 101122
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968582
    2010 Decca
    2010 EMI Classics 6483272
    2010 Indie Pool 073017
    2010 Calliope 5833
    2010 Naxos 857807778
    2010 Warner Classics
    2010 DA Records / Zebralution
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93900
    2009 Tudor Records 731
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records 00795041927828
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 2908209
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Audite 21404
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099926508
    2009 Decca 4765882
    2008 Chandos CHAN10467
    2008 Triton 00043
    2008 EMI Music Distribution 5627982
    2008 Avi 8553088
    2008 ABC Classics 4766834
    2008 Rca Red Seal 68560
    2008 Rca Red Seal 88697222492
    2008 Warner Classics & Jazz 2564 695498
    2008 Virgin 5619522
    2007 Simax 1297
    2007 Onyx ONYX 4018
    2007 Amado Classics 4000
    2007 ABC Classics 4766088
    2007 Erato 284668
    2007 Union Square Music 46
    2007 X5 Music Group 21289
    2006 Bridge 9211
    2006 Harmonia Mundi 901893
    2006 Philips 4757301
    2006 RTVE Classics 65185
    2006 CD Accord 136
    2006 Doremi Records 78649
    2006 Philips 475 7947
    2006 Philips 4757497
    2006 Edel Records 2822
    2005 MSR Classics 1107
    2005 St. Clair 94282
    2005 Arts Music 47840
    2005 Andante 2110
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 76978
    2004 ASV 723
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 85990
    2004 Arts Music 47578
    2004 Skarbo 4032
    2004 ASV / Sanctuary 402
    2004 Ivory Records 73006
    2004 Decca 1806
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 62800
    2003 Philips 473915
    2003 Decca 000125602
    2003 Tall Poppies 165
    2003 Vox 90118
    2002 Philips Classics 468193
    2002 Cambria 1128
    2002 Fleur de Son 57956
    2001 Soundset 1017
    2001 Ottavo OTR-59970
    2001 Tahra 409-412
    2001 Glissando 27
    2001 Glissando 779031
    2000 Novalis 150134
    2000 Decca 460 247-2DH2
    2000 Arabesque Z6734
    2000 Classico 293
    1999 ASV 506
    1999 Meridian Records 84379
    1999 Denon Records 17037
    1999 BBC Legends / BBC Music 40302
    1999 Philips 456817
    1999 Philips 462232
    1999 Philips 454987
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 290888
    1999 Philips 456874
    1998 Harmonia Mundi 7901504
    1998 Music & Arts CD1019
    1998 Orfeo D'Or 491981
    1997 Berlin Classics 0021272
    1997 Nimbus Records 1773
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453 070-2GTA2
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon
    1997 Quicksilva 432
    1997 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243565855
    1997 Teldec 0630-12361-2
    1996 Naxos 504010
    1996 Discover DICD920255
    1995 Madacy 400
    1995 Wergo WER 6242-2
    1995 ZYX Music 4029
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 445 547-2GMA
    1995 Naxos 553290
    1995 Conifer 51755
    1995 Hyperion 44061
    1995 VAI Audio 1117
    1994 Philips 438721
    1994 Sony Music Distribution 53973
    1994 Naxos 550253
    1994 London 443021
    1994 Decca
    1994 Astree 8531
    1994 Madacy 5644
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 63238
    1992 Nimbus 5160
    1992 Vox 5062
    1992 Harmonia Mundi 190954
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 47520
    1989 Arabesque 6601
    RCA Victor 7800
    EMI Music Distribution 66067
    RCA 7800
    RCA Silver Seal 60909
    Amado Classics 04011
    EMI Music Distribution 54451
    Denon Records 5196443
    EMI Music Distribution 47374
    Harmonia Mundi 901504
    Philips 412118
    Digital Concerto 685
    EXT 3020
    Digital Masterworks 71818
    EXL 4235
    Harmonic Records 8505
    Erato 94827
    G & J Records 2005
    Erato 98476
    Extraplatte 607
    Susan Rose 000
    Saga Classics 3383
    Pearl 0121