Claire de lune

Claire de lune is quite possibly Debussy’s most famous and recognizable composition, being one of the rare pieces in classical music to find its way numerous times into pop culture. Meaning “moonlight,” it is a piece of stunning, ethereal beauty. Yet, it is also a particularly demanding piece for performers, requiring a sensitivity to prevent the plentiful left-hand arpeggios from becoming static, as well as knowing proper restraint so as not to shatter the delicate and subtle colors of Debussy’s writing. Ternary in design, the piece opens with a shimmering melody, marked con sordina, in the moonlit key of D-flat major, which grows in brilliance as it proceeds through its second statement. An octave passage in rubato tempo leads into the central episode. Marked to be played a little faster, a new melody of even greater sublimity emerges atop resonant arpeggios. The episode itself bears a sort of ternary design itself as the music shifts to the key of E major in a somewhat more animated section before returning again to the tonic key. An altered reprise of the opening melody is given, accompanied by the arpeggios heard in the episode, before a brief coda closes this remarkably beautiful work.