Tarentelle styrienne

Claude Debussy

Tarentelle styrienne

L69, CD77 • “Danse”

About this work

This was another early cantata from Debussy and easily among his strongest efforts in the choral genre. Of course, in the twentieth century, he mostly abandoned that realm, unless one counts some unpublished efforts and the unaccompanied choral works, Trois Chansons de Charles d'Orléans (1908) and Ode à la France (1916-1817), which he sketched out but did not complete.

Debussy reorchestrated La damoiselle élue (The Blessed Damozel) in 1902, but left the music and text intact otherwise. The text he used was from the English poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), in a translation provided by G. Sarrazin. The Blessed Damozel is portrayed by the soprano in this work, while narrative portions of the text are divided between the women's chorus and contralto soloist, who serves as the Narrator. The music is beautiful and well-crafted, with little in it that could be called naïve. The choral and orchestral writing both are assured, even masterful. In the Prelude, Debussy introduces three themes that reappear in the harmonies throughout the score. There are certainly signs of the mature composer here, even if there is nothing revolutionary in the music, nothing quite like his watershed work, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1892-1894). Yet, there are more than a few moments that augur its coming, and there are fewer noticeable influences in the score. In sum, this is one of the composer's better early large works, and clearly one of his finest choral compositions.