The history behind the piece is based on Debussy’ s desire to re-establish the connection of French composers to their past. Debussy had become attached to the political and national aspirations of musical achievement that would influence his work after he was given the Legion de Honneur in 1903 (Trezise 39). He believed that the influential work of Gluck, Franck, and Wagner was changing the course of French composition into a direction that was not truly reflective of the heritage of French music. In “ Hommage a Rameau” , it “ has an expansive, monumental quality; the work can be read as a claim for equal status; the tribute of one French master to another” (Trezise 40).
As Debussy made a conscious choice to connect with a certain ‘ Frenchness’ in his work, his return to the influence of French composers in order to find influential inspiration created a context in which he could establish himself as a decidedly French composer who would pass this theory on to those who would follow his example. Having established the work of Rameau and the theoretical philosophy in which Debussy has written this work, the piece can be analyzed within the context it was written. When listening to the piece, one understands the development of a melancholy and reverence that is positioned at the beginning of the work to entrance the listener into the subtle nuances of a developing single voice. As the piece moves forward, the chord development becomes more sophisticated and with more layers of sound, developing on the themes of much older music, but still fresh and new as it embraces the tenets of impressionistic creative style. The reharmonization of the recurring motifs creates a haunted quality that in the controlled repetition allows for the sense of memory to be reinforced within the emotional context of the work.
The first bar is answered in theme by the tenth bar in theme and measure. As the fifth bar is echoed in the sixth and seventh bar, the piece becomes a balance of texture and harmony. As the piece is played, the pianist must show attention to the development of the right and left hands as they must be played with technical attention in order to properly capture the emotional content and the expressive. The short motifs that are used in order to properly set the tone and context of the scene that will be expressed serve to create a foundation for the way in which the texture will expand.
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