No 1: La mer est plus belle que les cathédrales
No 2: Le son du cor s'afflige vers les bois
No 3: L'échelonnement des haies
With Le son du cor Debussy conjures up a dreamworld entirely his own. The piano now takes up the reins of melody, while the voice chants, often on repeated notes. The horn is no longer the heroic instrument of Siegfried, but the bearer of ‘an almost orphan sorrow’. Without a score it is almost impossible to detect the beat in the first four bars; then the voice’s deliberately steady quavers on the first line speak of a struggle between man and nature, between the individual and the mass, to turn chaos into order. By comparison with La mer est plus belle, everything is understated, yet every syllable tells. In L’échelonnement des haies Debussy makes a bow in the direction of an even older form than the romance, the chanson. After the ‘soir monotone’ of Le son du cor, this is a bright, lazy Sunday afternoon enlivened by frisking colts and lambs. No one could compete with Debussy in his ability to engender light around his notes. We might almost say that the spaces between the notes are as important as the notes themselves. Predictably, the combination of bells and flutes in the same line brings out the best in him. Like Mozart, he would have been able to say, ‘Not one note more than is necessary’.
from notes by Roger Nichols © 2003