Six Debussy Sonatas

ENS.2018.1 | 60′


I. Sonata for Cello and Piano

II. Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp

III. Sonata for Violin and Piano

IV. Sonata for Oboe, Horn, and Harpsichord

V. Sonata for Clarinet, Bassoon, Trumpet, and Piano

VI. Sonata for Sinfonietta

In 1914 Claude Debussy embarked on a series of six sonatas for various instruments (Six sonatas pour divers instruments), dedicated to his second wife. Having completed the first three, for cello and piano; flute, viola, and harp; and violin and piano, his death in 1918 forever interrupted the set.

In the manuscript of the violin sonata Debussy outlined his plans for the remainder of the cycle: sonatas for oboe, horn, and harpsichord; clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, and piano; and a final chamber orchestra “concerto where the sonorities of the various instruments combine, with the gracious assistance of the double bass.” I have used this plan to compose my own sonata cycle inspired by the evocative instrumental combinations imagined by Debussy.

Six Debussy Sonatas follows an overall harmonic form that binds each of the sonatas together and to one another; likewise, structural cycles control the rhythmic, melodic, and textural material. All of the material was first freely composed according to the sound I wanted to create for each individual piece, then shared between sonatas as seemed to fit. Although there are no musical connections to Debussy’s original sonatas, they possess the same brevity, both in terms of length and compression of musical content.