Suite bergamasque (L. 75) (French pronunciation: [sɥit bɛʁɡamask]) is a piano suite by Claude Debussy, and one of the composer's most famous works for the instrument. He began composing it around 1890, at the age of 28, but significantly revised it just before its 1905 publication.
The composer was initially unwilling to use these relatively early piano compositions because they were not in his mature style, but in 1905 he accepted the offer from a publisher who thought they would be successful given the fame Debussy had gained in the intervening fifteen years. While it is not known how much of the Suite was written in 1890 and how much was written in 1905, it is clear that Debussy changed the names of at least two of the pieces. "Passepied" had first been composed under the title "Pavane", while "Clair de lune" was originally entitled "Promenade sentimental". These names come from poems by Paul Verlaine. The final title of Suite bergamasque is derived from Verlaine's poem "Clair de lune", which refers to bergamasks in its opening stanza:
Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.
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.
- Prélude (Moderato tempo rubato, F major, 4
- Menuet (Andante, A minor, 3
- Clair de lune (Andante très expressif, D♭ major, 9
- Passepied (Allegretto ma non troppo, F♯ minor, 4
3. Clair de lune
The third and most famous movement of Suite bergamasque is Clair de lune, in D♭ major. It is written in 9
8 meter, marked andante très expressif. Its title, which means "moonlight" in French, is taken from Verlaine's poem "Clair de lune". It is not to be confused with the two settings of the poem composed by Debussy for voice and piano accompaniment.
The final movement, entitled Passepied, is in F♯ minor, marked allegretto ma non troppo. A passepied is a type of dance that originated in Brittany. This movement is fast and light, with the left hand playing staccato arpeggios throughout.
Clair de lune was originally intended to be included as a fully orchestrated piece in the 1940 Walt Disney animated film Fantasia. However, due to runtime issues, it was eventually not included in the final cut of the film. Instead, the footage for its intended segment (featuring herons in the Florida Everglades at night) was recycled for the "Blue Bayou" segment of the subsequent film Make Mine Music. However, the Clair de lune segment was later restored after a workprint of it was rediscovered in 1992, complete with an original score by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It is included as a bonus feature in some later releases of Fantasia.
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- "Lost Disney Sequence Shown at Hollywood Bowl 'Fantasia' Concert". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
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