April 01, 2018

New album release: re-discovered Debussy manuscript of early préludes

Twelve early préludes unearthed and presented in their world-premiere recording.

Warner Classics has unearthed several Debussy rarities and world-premiere recordings for its monumental contribution to the centenary of the composer’s death. The 33CD Debussy Complete Works box set, which features 11 CDs’ additional content compared to any other purported ‘complete’ collection, has been hailed ‘exhaustive, the sum of the crème de la crème of the discography’ (Diapason).

But a significant new discovery, authenticated and edited too late to be included in the complete edition, sees its first-ever release today as a separate album: an entire volume of early piano préludes Debussy sketched out before the préludes we know and love…All inspired by French gastronomy. In addition, many of these miniatures for piano are clear precursors and early versions of mature works in multiple genres across Debussy’s rich and varied œuvre, drawing from the same literary references.

Sources have confirmed that the 23-year-old Debussy, living in Rome at the Villa Medici in 1885 after winning the Prix de Rome, wrote to family and friends in Paris complaining of homesickness stemming primarily from a longing for French food. Having dedicated dozens of sensual songs to his older lover Madame Vasnier during the same period, it seems that carnal and culinary delights were Claude’s two greatest inspirations.

As with the Préludes Book I and II of 1909-10, there are twelve pieces in the collection, with titles revealed only at the end of each piece and preceded by an ellipsis. The manuscripts have been authenticated by the Chambre Professionnelle des Artisans Boulangers-Pâtissiers (CPABP) through analysis of breadcrumbs found pressed between the pages, which have been traced to Debussy’s local bakery. Musicologists speculate that Debussy simply abandoned the project once he was back in Paris and surrounded by good French food, but many of the motifs and ideas developed in these early préludes can be identified in the composer’s later masterpieces.

The pianist entrusted with the honour and responsibility of recording these works for the first time is French virtuoso Bertrand Chamayou, who also features on the Complete Works box set and on a critically acclaimed album of Debussy Chamber Music. "I always wondered what could have inspired in Debussy such sensual, glistening harmonies. With the discovery of these préludes I now consider the mystery solved: sausage and cheese!"

 Debussy - Clair de Food: The Early Préludes 1885-86

  1. Prélude à l’après-midi d’un flan
  2. Le chocolat englouti
  3. Sauce bergamasque
  4. Éclair de lune
  5. L’Île flottante
  6. Croissants d’or
  7. La boîte à bonbons
  8. La fille aux cheveux de pralin
  9. Crêpes galantes
  10. La baguette joyeuse
  11. Gratin ad Parnassum
  12. Gollywog’s Cake

Bon Appétit. Listen here: https://wnrcl.me/clairdefood

 

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