It’s time for everybody’s favorite game, “Is it Debussy or an English period drama soundtrack?” in which you, the listener, have to decide of the following excerpt is a) the anonymous soundtrack to a BBC period drama or b) an obscure vocal work by a famous French composer?
If you guessed (a), you, my friend, are wrong. This is by Claude Debussy, and it’s from a piece called “La Damoiselle Élue” that I just had to learn for this year’s May Festival (and that I subsequently fell in love with.) It’s one of those pieces that manages to be ravishingly beautiful and soporific at the same time (for more such works see: Debussy, Claude and Mozart, W.A.)
Just to clarify, here’s how it more likely would have gone if it had been written for British network television:
Later in the series (perhaps during the final scene even, when the lovers meet each other again as snow falls around them) there would be a wordless choir in addition to the string wash.
You guys should seriously give “La D. É.” a listen, and if you do, tell me if you think it isn’t the most Puccini-esque piece in Debussy’s output (it sounds a lot like “La Rondine”. Is that the most Debussyy piece in Puccini’s output? Discuss.)
[Also, as far as BBC scoring goes, I continue to be impressed by whoever wrote the score for that episode of Two Fat Ladies when they talk about Wagner.]