Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918), and there is to be a music festival, the “Debussy Touch,” themed on Debussy’s piano works starting tonight.
Led by music critic Chiao Yuan-pu as the music director, the festival will feature five top pianists — Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Dang Thai-son, Yen Chun-chieh, Pascal Roge, and Frank Braley — with a complete offering of Debussy’s works for solo piano in five marathon-like programs, in a series of 10 concerts in Taiwan over the course of three months, beginning tonight until mid-November. Given Chiao’s fascinating insight, the festival, which is the first of its kind in Taiwan, will be a great opportunity for quality-conscious music lovers.
French pianist Bavouzet — best known for his authentic interpretation of Debussy’s works — will kick off the music festival on the evenings of Debussy’s birthday today in Greater Taichung and Friday in Taipei. His magnificent two-hour performances will include a program of First Arabesque, Preludes, Book II, Images, Book I, Etudes, Book I, the Asia premiere of his own transcription of Debussy’s late ballet piece Jeux, and others.
Known for his unique harmonic freedom and musical colors, Debussy did not want his works be categorized. Nevertheless, many of the titles he chose for his works — such as La Mer, with a rich depiction of the ocean; “Reflets dans l’eau” in Images, Book I; “Poissons d’or” in Images, Book II; ”Pagodes” and “Jardins sous la pluie” in Estampes; “Voiles,” “Des pas sur la neige,” and “La fille aux cheveux de lin” in Preludes, Book I; and “Brouillards” and “Feux d’artifice” in Preludes, Book II — suggest that visual experiences were often the starting point for Debussy’s compositions.
According to the organizers, Debussy’s palette transcends the sense of colors and the play of light and shade to allude to scenes that no modern technology can fully describe. Debussy’s music was ahead of its time and remains as potent today as when it was first written. His works are not only frequently performed, but are also often used in films, television shows and advertisements. Debussy is known for being one of the most ubiquitous classical music composers today.
Besides Bavouzet, the subsequent concerts will feature five more pianists: Dang, first-prize winner at the International Chopin Piano Competition, will explore the exotic quality and oriental landscape of Debussy’s music, such as Estampes, from an Asian poet’s perspective. Yen, third-prize winner at the Prokofiev International Competition, will interpret the differences and similarities between Debussy and his contemporary Joseph-Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Roge, first-prize winner at the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition, will reconstruct the young Debussy and the shimmering effects of light projected through water ripples from Debussy’s pen. Roge will also share the stage with his wife Ami to play a rarely performed four-hand piano transcription of La Mer.
Lastly, Braley, first-prize winner at the Queen Elizabeth Competition, will make his Taiwan debut in November. He will explore the unique perspective of Debussy — one of the most instinctive musicians whose innovations started the breakdown of the old system, placing him well ahead of his time. For the complete concert programs and ticketing information, visit Asia Music & Arts at www.asiamusicarts.com.tw.