Moonlight by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) or Clair de lune in French, is one of the most famous, if not the most famous work of the French composer.
It was played on countless occasions, among others in movies and has been associated with the Impressionist painting as its musical performance.
If the interpretation of the emotions a musical piece can instill in each individual is difficult, yet this piece conveys a clear contemplative intention, with at times, melancholy and sensuality.
The suite bergamasque and Moonlight
Moonlight is part of a great piece for piano that contains four movements entitled Suite Bergamo. This suite consists of the following movements:
- Final Passepied.
The suite was composed in 1890 but was not published until 1905 despite the objections of its author. The composer thought indeed that this youth composition was much below the level of his mature works.
Its name was given after Comedia del arte masks of Bergamo and was inspired by the collection of poems entitled Fêtes Galantes by Paul Verlaine, published in 1869. The movement moonlight was inspired by the poem with the same name and same author.
Moonlight is interpreted for most of the duration of the movement in pianissimo in D flat major and when the song becomes intense, in C sharp minor. Originally, Debussy had planned to call this movement “sentimental Promenade”.
Here is an extract of Moonlight score
Vidéo of Moonlight by Debussy
Here is a delicate and impressive version of Moonlight on the violin, played by David Oistrakh.
Moonlight poem by Paul Verlaine
Your soul is like a landscape fantasy,
Where masks and Bergamasks, in charming wise,
Strum lutes and dance, just a bit sad to be
Hidden beneath their fanciful disguise.
Singing in minor mode of life’s largesse
And all-victorious love, they yet seem quite
Reluctant to believe their happiness,
And their song mingles with the pale moonlight,
The calm, pale moonlight, whose sad beauty, beaming,
Sets the birds softly dreaming in the trees,
And makes the marbled fountains, gushing, streaming—
Slender jet-fountains—sob their ecstasies.