Friday, December 12, 2014


“Tones sound, and roar and storm about me
  until I have set them down in notes.”
AUTHOR: Ludwig van Beethoven
“Some artists can never rest until they
  are allowed to express themselves.”

William Degouve de Nuncques: Nocturne
Trios Nocturnes
‘Trois Nocturnes’
Charles Dutoit, Conductor
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal
1. Nuages (Clouds) 7:49
2. Fetes (Festivals) 6:17
3. Sirenes (Sirens) 10:56

Debussy composed the Nocturnes, a three-part piece
in which the music evokes the movements of clouds at
night, the mood of evening parties, and the movements
of the sea in the moonlight, between 1897 and 1899.
These pieces were inspired from the literature
of Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire
Baudelaire, as did Whistler, stressed  in his art the
importance of harmonious picture surfaces;
escaping the reality of everyday life
with the focus on the imaginary,
rather than a ‘realistic’ depiction of
the subject matter.

and from the set of "Nocturne"
paintings he had seen so poetically suggested
(where sound and color respond to each
other) from the 1870's by the artist
James Abbot McNeill
Whistler, 1885
By William Merritt Chase
This is a piece appropriate to the night or evening.
In music it is an instrumental composition of a
dreamy or pensive character.

Trios Nocturnes
‘Trois Nocturnes’
Nuages (Clouds)-I
movements of clouds at night
Debussy wrote about this piece,
"'Nuages' renders the immutable aspect of the sky
and the slow, solemn motion of the clouds, fading
 way in grey tones lightly tinged with white."
Charles Dutoit, Conductor
Montreal Symphony Orchestra

Trios Nocturnes
‘Trois Nocturnes’
‘Fêtes’ (Festivals)-II
the mood of evening parties
Debussy wrote about this piece,
"'Fêtes' gives us the vibrating, dancing rhythms of
the atmosphere with sudden flashes of light.
There is also the episode of the procession (a
dazzling fantastic vision), which passes through
the festive scene and becomes merged in it. But
the background remains consistently the same:
the festival with its blending of music and luminous
dust participating in the cosmic rhythm."
Vladimir Ashkenazy, Conductor
Cleveland Orchestra

Trios Nocturnes
‘Trois Nocturnes’
‘Sirènes’ (Sirens)-III
movements of the sea in the moonlight
Debussy wrote about this piece,
"Sirènes depicts the sea and its countless rhythms
and presently, amongst the waves silvered by the
 moonlight, is heard the mysterious song of the
 Sirens as they laugh and pass on."
Yan Pascal Tortelier, Conductor
Ulster Symphony
Grosvenor High School Choir
Whistler's Nocturnes are studies in light and shade
that offer an impression of landscapes and objects.
The artist focused on the dissolution of the subject
matter towards abstraction, on its subtle tonal
harmonies which replicate the abstract language
of music. (Many titles of his paintings are taken
from the musical vocabulary, such as arrangements,
symphonies, nocturnes and harmonies.)
James Abbot McNeill Whistler: Nocturne in Black and Gold
The Falling Rocket, 1874-1877
They are dark, atmospheric paintings of
nighttime landscapes of the English Thames
River and public gardens, where shapes of
objects painted in a monochromatic palette
and low perspective appear and disappear.

James Abbot McNeill Whistler: Nocturne, Blue, and Silver
Chelsea, 1871

In Whistler’s words,
"where the evening mist clothes the riverside with
poetry, as with a veil and the poor buildings lose
themselves in the dim sky, and the tall chimneys
become campanili, and the warehouses are palaces
in the night.. Nature… sings her exquisite song to
the artist alone, her son and her master – her son
in that he loves her, her master in that he knows her."
James Abbot McNeill Whistler: Nocturne in Blue and Gold
Old Battersea Bridge, c. 1872-1875

Whistler (as was Debussy) was himself very much
inspired by the Japanese prints of Hokusai
Hokusai portrait.jpg

and Hiroshige,
portrait of Utagawa Hiroshige 1
One Hundred Famous Views of Edo
Utagawa Hiroshige

which provided inspiration for many French
Impressionist painters, using different
concepts of composition, space, and time.

Debussy was an avid art enthusiast and was
deeply influenced by the art of his times.
He personally knew Whistler
James Abbot McNeill
and several other artists:

and Paul Gaugin

among them and was a great
admirer of the work of 
J.M.W. Turner,
J.M.W. Turner: Self Portrait
whose canvases show a proto-impressionistic feeling
for light similar to that found in Whistler’s Nocturnes.
The composer went to London in 1903 to see
Turner’s paintings,
J.M.W. Turner: The Slave Ship, 1840
and once described the artist as
"the greatest creator of mystery in art."

Debussy provided an introductory note to his
Nocturnes that reveals the influence of these
painters' sensibilities on his own thinking,
with its reliance on light, mystery, and
impression to characterize his music.

"The title Nocturnes is to be interpreted here in
general and, more particularly, in a decorative
sense. Therefore it is not meant to designate
the usual form of the Nocturne, but rather all
the various impressions and the special effects
of light that the word suggests."

"It's an experiment, in fact, in finding
the different combinations possible
inside a single color, as a painter
might make a study in gray,
for example."

Whistler created a series of dark, atmospheric paintings
of nighttime landscapes that he called "nocturnes." His
inspiration for these works came, in part, from Japanese
woodblock prints, while the term "nocturne" was suggested
to Whistler by one of his patrons, an amateur pianist named
Frederick Leyland.
Leyland, in turn, borrowed the label from Frédéric Chopin's
piano works of the same name, written in the 1830's.
Nocturne in Blue and Silver
The Lagoon Venice, 1879
Nocturne in Blue and Gold:
Valparaiso Bay, 1866
Nocturne in Blue and Silver
Bognor, 1871-1876
Nocturne: Trafalgar Square, Chelsea Snow, 1875-77
Nocturne: Blue and SIlver--Battersea Reach
Nocturne in Blue and Silver
Battersea Reach, 1870-1875
Nocturne in Gray and Gold
Westminster Bridge, c. 1871-1874
Nocturne: The Solent, 1866