About this Recording
8.570775 - DEBUSSY, C.: La Mer / Nocturnes / HOSOKAWA, T.: Circulating Ocean (Lyon National Orchestra, Markl)

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
La mer • Nocturnes (excerpts)
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune


Debussy was born in 1862 in St Germain-en-Laye, the son of a shop-keeper who was later to turn his hand to other activities, with varying success. He started piano lessons at the age of seven and continued two years later, improbably enough, with Verlaine's mother-in-law, allegedly a pupil of Chopin. In 1872 he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he abandoned the plan of becoming a virtuoso pianist, turning his principal attention to composition. In 1880, at the age of eighteen, he was employed by Tchaikovsky's patroness Nadezhda von Meck as tutor to her children and house-musician. On his return to the Conservatoire he entered the class of Bizet's friend Ernest Guiraud. In 1884 he won the coveted Grand Prix de Rome, the following year reluctantly taking up obligatory residence, according to the terms of the award, at the Villa Medici in Rome, where he met Liszt. By 1887 he was back in Paris, winning his first significant success in 1900 with Nocturnes and going on, two years later, to a succès de scandale with his opera Pelléas et Mélisande, based on the play by Maurice Maeterlinck, a work that established his position as a composer of importance.

Debussy's personal life brought some unhappiness in his first marriage in 1899 to a mannequin, Lily Texier, after a liaison of some seven years with Gabrielle Dupont and a brief engagement in 1894 to the singer Thérèse Roger. His association from 1903 with Emma Bardac, the wife of a banker and a singer of some ability, led eventually to their marriage in 1908, after the birth of their daughter three years earlier. In 1904 he had abandoned his wife, moving into an apartment with Emma Bardac, and the subsequent attempt at suicide by the former, who had shared with him many of the difficulties of his early career, alienated a number of his friends. His final years were darkened by the war and by cancer, the cause of his death in March 1918, when he left unfinished a planned series of chamber music works, only three of which had been completed.

As a composer Debussy must be regarded as one of the most important and influential figures of the earlier twentieth century. His musical language suggested new paths to be further explored, while his poetic and sensitive use of the orchestra and of keyboard textures opened still more possibilities. His opera Pelléas et Mélisande and his songs demonstrated a deep understanding of poetic language, revealed by his music, expressed in terms that are never overstated or exaggerated.

The three evocative symphonic sketches that form La mer were completed in 1905 after two year's work. The period of Debussy's life was a difficult one and after leaving his wife he took refuge with Emma Bardac in an Eastbourne hotel. Shortly after the first performance of La mer in 1905, Emma Bardac gave birth to a daughter, Claude-Emma, to be known in the family as Chou-Chou. In the symphonic sketches there is no sign of domestic stress. Debussy makes delicate use of a large orchestra in structures of some complexity, the three sketches corresponding in some measure to the traditional forms of sonata, rondo and free fantasia. Although analogies with French Impressionism were drawn by contemporaries, others have seen rather a reflection of the composer's admiration for the English painter Turner, while the influence of Japanese woodcuts was demonstrated in the choice of Hokusai's Wave, from the Views of Fujiyama, for the front of the printed score. The first sketch takes us from dawn to noon on the sea, in a rich and varied musical texture, a mosaic of orchestral sound. This is followed by the sport of the waves, a scherzo-like movement, and the final conversation of wind and sea, leading to a climax of hedonistic ecstasy.

Debussy originally planned his Nocturnes as a series of pieces for the famous Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. Deriving inspiration from the poet Henri de Régnier, he completed the work in 1896, which was first conceived, under its initial title Trois scènes au crépuscule (Three Scenes at Twilight), in the years 1892 and 1893. The final orchestral version was completed in 1900. The present recording includes the first two of the three sections of the work. Nuages (Clouds) provides a poetically evocative opening, a reflection of the movement of the clouds across the sky. It is followed by Fêtes (Festivals), a recreation of holiday festivities in the Bois de Boulogne.

The famous Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) was completed in 1894. It was later to achieve unwanted notoriety in the overtly erotic mime of the dancer Nijinsky, when the score was used by Diaghilev for a ballet in 1912, a treatment of the work with which Debussy was not happy. The inspiration for what was essentially revolutionary music came from a poem by Mallarmé, with its subtly sensuous suggestions of a pagan world. In the form of an Eclogue, the poem is in the words of a Faun, half-goat and half-man, in the mould of the pagan god Pan. He is stirred by the sight of passing nymphs, as he lies resting from the heat of the mid-day in a wooded glade. The music opens with the sound of the Faun's reed-pipe, represented by the flute, in a score that makes imaginative use of woodwind, two harps and strings, with percussion confined to antique cymbals, used with sparing yet telling effect.

Keith Anderson



Toshio Hosokawa (b. 1955)
Circulating Ocean
for orchestra (2005)


Toshio Hosokawa was born on 23 October 1955 in Hiroshima. He went to West Berlin to study composition with Isang Yun at the Hochschule der Künste in 1976. From 1983 to 1986, he studied with Klaus Huber at the Staatlichen Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg.

In 1980, he participated for the first time in the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt, where his work was performed. Since then, Hosokawa has presented his works in Europe and Japan, gaining an international reputation and winning numerous awards and prizes, including First Prize in the Composition Competition on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (1982), Rheingau Musikpreis (1998), Duisburger Musikpreis (1998) and musica viva-Preises der ARD und BMW AG (2001). In 2001, Hosokawa became a member of Akademie der Künste, Berlin.

He has been invited to nearly all of the major contemporary music festivals in Europe as composer in residence, guest composer or lecturer, including the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt (1990- ), La Biennale di Venezia (1995, 2001), Münchener Biennale (1998), Internationale Sommerakademie der Hochschule "Mozarteum" Salzburg (1998), Internationale Musikfestwochen Luzern (2000), musica viva in Munich (2001), Klangspuren in Schwaz (2002), Musica nova Helsinki (2003), Centre Acanthes in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon (2003) and Warsaw Autumn (2005). At the Münchener Biennale in 1998, his first opera, Vision of Lear, commissioned by the City of Munich for the festival, was premièred, and highly acclaimed as "a work inspired by the encounter of East and West which has opened up a new musical world."

In 2004, his second opera Hanjo, commissioned by the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, was premièred at the Festival and achieved an overwhelming triumph. In August 2005, his orchestral work, Circulating Ocean, commissioned by the Salzburg Festival, was premièred by the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Valery Gergiev and received its U.K. première in August 2006 in BBC Proms. His Lotus under the moonlight for piano and orchestra, which was commissioned by NDR on the occasion of Mozart Year 2006 received its world première and repeated performances in regular concerts of the NDR Symphony Orchestra with the soloist Momo Kodama and the conductor Jun Märkl in April 2006. The work was also well received when it was first performed in Japan by Momo Kodama and the Mito Chamber Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa in December 2006. In January 2007, the German première of Circulating Ocean took place in Berlin by the Deutsches-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under the baton of Kent Nagano.

Since 1998, Hosokawa has served as Composer-in-Residence at the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. He is also Composer-in-Residence with the Deutsches-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (2006/2007) and with the WDR Rundfunkchor, Cologne (2006-2008). Since 2001, he has served as Music Director for the Takefu International Music Festival. In 2004, he was appointed a guest professor at Tokyo College of Music.

Hosokawa, who is resident in Berlin, has also been invited to be one of the 2006/2007 Fellows by the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Commissioned by the Salzburg Festival, Circulating Oceanfor orchestra was composed in early 2005, and is dedicated to Peter Ruzicka. It received its world première at the Festival on 20 and 21 August 2005, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Valery Gergiev.

For some years, I have been writing, and will continue to write, works on the theme of "Ocean." I am attempting to express in sound the flow and change of water by apprehending sound as water. The ocean is for me the birthplace of life, a being possessed of infinite depth and expanse. The waves rolling in and withdrawing can be felt as "the voice from eternity." Water evaporates from the ocean and rises to the sky, becoming clouds. The clouds eventually turn into rain, and pour down again to the ocean. They then become a storm, and the ocean rages. In time the storm abates and the ocean regains a deep silence. Then the water once again becoming fog ascends from the ocean to the sky. This image became the basis of the music.

I also take the tracks of the circulating water as the human life cycle. Born from a vast limitless being, we ascend toward the heights, eventually begin our descent, experience violent storms and return again to an ocean of deep silence. Then once again, life rises to the sky. I wanted to express the tracks of this circulating life in music.

The orchestra can be seen as the traditional Japanese shô, a kind of mouth organ. The shô player produces sound by breathing in and out. The sound cast outward from the player by his breathing out comes back to him by his breathing in. This repetition produces time in the form of a circle. The wave motion of the ocean is a wave motion of sound that surges in toward and out from the audience in crescendo and decrescendo. The wave motion, expressed by the various instrumental sections, folds over again and again. After experiencing the storm, the ocean regains a deep stillness, and the water once again becomes vapor and ascends to the sky. As the ocean disappears into the unresolved nebulousness of the deep fog, we are made to feel a premonition of life's return.

Toshio Hosokawa


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