Sunday, October 10, 2010

Claude Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis

Even today, many people are surprised to learn that Pierre Louÿs' "translations" of Bilitis aren't actually translations at all, but a very clever fraud foisted upon the literary establishment. Even though Claude Debussy only set three texts from the entire Louÿs/Bilitis collection, they are some of his most memorable songs, both brilliant and enigmatic. The video below features soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Gilbert Kalish.

I. La flûte de Pan
II. Le chevelure
III. Le tombeau des Naïades

Maggie Teyte's 1936 recording with Alfred Cortot is also worth a listen, if only to hear one of Debussy's favorite singers performing alongside one of the great Debussy (and Chopin!) interpreters of the early 20th century:

If you're performing Chansons de Bilitis, it's worth reading Pierre Louÿs' Songs of Bilitis in its entirety, which you can find here. A very clever case of literary fraud indeed.

Songs of Claude Debussy - Volume IILook InsideSongs of Claude Debussy - Volume II (The Vocal Library). By Claude Debussy (1862-1918). Arranged by James R. Briscoe. Medium Voice. Vocal Collection. 184 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.660283)
...more info

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