We thought we’d run a little series on famous themes of classical music, that you probably didn’t realise you knew. That is because these themes are often for us, the consumer, associated with a tv ad or a movie (or sometimes several) in which they are used, rather than the original context of classical piece itself.
The result of course, is that we don’t know the actual name of the piece, we are left with “ah, that theme from that ad, argh, what’s it called…”
So today we’d like to introduce you to Clair De Lune by French composer Claude Debussy (click on his name to read a longer bio). Or, as you may know it, the theme used in the (almost) final scene of the movie Ocean’s 11.
So, what important tid-bits should we know about Debussy?
Q: Was he a one-hit classical wonder?
Q: Ok, so what other stuff did he write that I may know (or should know)?
A: Arabesque 1, Golliwogg’s Cake Walk, La Cathédrale Engloutie, La Fille Aux Cheveux De Lin, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.
Q: Ah, that’s a whole load of French to me!
A: Yep, translated they would be Arabesque 1, Golliwogg’s Cake Walk, The Sunken Cathedral, The Girl With The Flaxen Hair, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (a faun is a spirit-like creature that lives in the forest).
Q: Ok, dude, I get it, he wrote quite a bit.
A: Yes, he was one of the eminent (important) composers of Impressionist Music.
Q: Yeah, yeah, very impressive.
A: Impressionist were concerned with giving you an impression of something, rather than describing it “exactly”. So in the piece La Cathédrale Engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral) he is giving us the impression of a cathedral (that is said to have sunk into the sea) re-emerging only to disappear again. (This refers to the legend of the sunken city of Ys, in Brittany).
Q: Ok, let’s get back to our piece.
A: Sure, it is actually originally written for piano (Ocean’s 11 uses the orchestral version), and is part of the so called Suite Bergamasque. He started writing it in 1890 at age 28, but did not finish it until 1905, (aged 43). Leopold Stokowski created the orchestration .
Q: Cool, enough knowledge, can we have a bit of Ocean’s 11 now?
A: Ok, one more thing: Clair De Lune is actually French for “Moonlight”.