The Battle of the Somme Credit: www. One of the largest and most brutal engagements of the First World War, almost one million men were wounded or killed! Among them was the young British composer George Butterworth, who was shot through the head by a sniper in August Butterworth was one of thousands of well-educated soldiers that chronicled their personal experiences through words, art and music. The writers Robert Graves, JRR Tolkien and Edmund Blunden left a legacy of poetry, memoirs and fiction that helped future generations to understand the reality of war. Ravel had hoped to help his country as an aviator, but was considered too old and too short.

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Debussy was 52 years old at the time. He reportedly did not even touch the piano for weeks following the commencement of hostilities. Debussy had no desire to compose anything at all. He even did not wish for any of his works to be performed, at home or in other countries. Debussy stated that he did not want "that work to be played before the fate of France has been decided, for she can neither laugh nor weep while so many of our men are heroically facing death.

Initially, he conceived of a "Marche Heroique," but that sort of thing did not mesh with his understated compositional style. A march which was meant to evoke strong patriotic feelings would have required loud, grand music.

Also, Debussy thought that it seemed ridiculous for him to speak of heroism while he was living in peace, well away from the battles. This simple piece for piano was to be the only work that Debussy composed in the 12 months following the start of the war. A berceuse is a type of lullaby, mostly for solo piano. Many pieces in this genre were written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Berceuse Heroique can still be called "heroic" because of its use of the Belgian national anthem, also known as the "Brabanconne. A sense of nostalgia, rather than heroism, is conveyed, especially in the orchestral version of the composition. Debussy completed this arrangement in December. The Belgian national anthem is presented somberly by many instruments throughout this orchestral work, as it is heard first in the bassoons, horns, and clarinets, then in the violas and cellos.

The Concerts Colonne et Lamoureux, an orchestra, presented this version during their - season. He found this extremely difficult, as he had not had the proper amount of research and scholastic experience for this task. He managed to finish that project, before also revising J. Appears On.


Berceuse heroique



Debussy : Berceuse héroïque interprétée par Alain Planès



Berceuse héroïque for piano (or orchestra), L. 140 (132)


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