About this work
"Khamma" is a ballet score written for the money. Still, it is work of considerable merit, which the self-critical composer was pleased with, particularly in the area of harmonic innovations. It is one of the most exotic-sounding of Debussy's works. The work is set in ancient Egypt; Khamma is the name of the heroine who prays in dance form at the temple of Amon-Ra for the country's deliverance from invaders. Once the invaders are repelled, she drops dead in sacrifice. This intriguing work deserves more than the scant attention it has received over the years -- it was not even premiered until thirty years after the composer's death. This might be because of a sneaking feeling that it is not authentic. Debussy was too ill or too busy with other projects to finish the orchestration, so he handed the job to composer Charles Koechlin and made it clear that Koechlin had carte blanche to do the chore as he pleased by saying, "Write 'Khamma' yourself and I'll put my name to it." While other composers orchestrated Debussy works in a style surptisingly close in sound to Debussy's own, the more individualistic Koechlin's personality is very evident throughout "Khamma," particularly in some of the eerie bass effects using an orchestral piano.
Curated by Maria Nemtsova, Pianist