Debussy’s first compositions for solo piano to be issued in print were his Deux Arabesques
. Already in his lifetime some 123,000 copies were sold of the first one, making it then, as now, one of his most popular pieces. It is funny to read that, even though they were published in 1891, as late as 1903 the newspaper Le Figaro
published the first one as a musical supplement in which they called it a ‘new and entirely recent composition’ by a ‘young composer’ (Debussy was forty-one by then), stating how perplexing the music might be to even the most experienced pianist. They were no doubt trying to cash in on his success the previous year with his opera Pelléas et Mélisande
, which had made him famous overnight. Now nothing seems simpler than these totally charming pieces, with their flowing and decorative writing. Debussy once used the term ‘arabesque’ in describing a movement of a Bach violin concerto, speaking of the ‘principle of “ornament”, which is the basis of all forms of art’.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2012