This article is over 5 years old

Classical Music

Music In The Making: Le Mois De La Poésie

Celebrating National Poetry Month with French works inspired by the written word.


To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>

April is National Poetry Month, and on this week’s episode of Music in the Making, we’re celebrating with music inspired by verse. We’ll head to France, with poetry by Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine and music by Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy.

Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (arr. Michael Webster)
Webster Trio
Dudley Recital Hall

Debussy’s symphonic poem, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, was inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem of the same name, a literary work that took French society by storm, and would prove to be an essential example of Symbolist text. Debussy, inspired perhaps by the dream-like monologue, explored new timbres and harmonies in this work.

Stephane Mallarme
Stephane Mallarme

Claude Debussy: Suite Bergamasque
Inon Barnatan, piano
Moores Opera House

Next, we’ll turn to piece inspired by Paul Verlaine, with whom Debussy was also connected. By this point, he had already set some of Verlaine’s poetry. In Suite Bergamasque, he names the third movement after one of Verlaine’s poems, called “Claire de Lune.” The title of the Suite itself also references this poem, as the opening lines contain the word “Bergamasque,” reading, “Your soul is a chosen landscape/Where charming masqueraders and bergamaskers go”.

Paul Verlaine
Otto Wegener
Paul Verlaine

Maurice Ravel: Piano Trio
Boson Mo (violin), Desmond Hoebig (cello), Andrew Staupe (piano)
Duncan Recital Hall

In our final selection, we look to the poetry of Malaysia for inspiration, as Maurice Ravel did in the second movement of his Piano Trio. The Pantun is a traditional form in which the second and fourth lines of one stanza become the the first and third of the the next. Ravel adopts and adjusts this principle in Pantoum, juxtaposing musical themes rather than text.

Maurice Ravel
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Maurice Ravel

This episode originally aired Sunday, April 9th, 2017. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical.