La Soirée dans Grenade by Claude Debussy
Updated: Jan 29, 2021
#listeneveryday 27 Nov 2020
This week we've been to the US, Mexico, Germany and Mali, and we end our little trip in Spain, though courtesy of a French composer who had only visited the country once on a day trip to San Sebastián, just across the border from France.
La soirée dans Grenade (an evening in Granada) is from a collection of three piano pieces that Debussy wrote in 1903 called Estampes, which are considered by many to be the first pieces where he explored new sound worlds focusing on the concepts of imagination and effect, rather than realism, in a style many call 'Impressionism'.
Impressionism is a word borrowed from art and many are familiar with the paintings of Monet, Renoir and others which are described in this way. Debussy was not a big fan of his music being called 'Impressionist' but he certainly strove to create similar effects and atmospheres, frequently drawing on the music of other countries that he had encountered at exhibitions in Paris.
Granada is located in Andalusia in southern Spain. It is a busy and cosmopolitan city, popular with tourists, skiers and settlers from other cultures. It was the last seat in Spain of the Islamic emirs and still has many reminders of its Arabic past. Debussy cleverly references this by combining Arabic-sounding melodies with imitations of Spanish guitar strumming and the rhythm of the habanera - a Cuban dance popular in Spain during Debussy's time.
Have fun listening out for all of these diverse styles - Debussy's attempt at sounding Spanish won the praise of his Spanish contemporary Manuel de Falla and he is - for many people - unrivalled at getting such a range of tone and colour from the humble piano.
More to listen to
The Habanera from Bizet's Carmen (1875) - probably the most famous setting of this dance, also by a French composer!
Pagodes - another one of Debussy's Estampes which is influenced by the Chinese music and the gamelan music of Java, Indonesia. Here it is described by Daniel Barenboim.
Some Spanish music by a Spanish composer - Jota from The Three-Cornered Hat by Manuel de Falla, a ballet first performed (in Paris!) in 1919.
A new #listeneveryday post is published every weekday! Comment below or tweet @SimonRushby with your suggestions for future music.