“Works of art make rules but rules do not make works of art.”
Claude Debussy sagely opined the above, while engaging in some fabulous rule-making (and breaking) of his own. Debussy was clearly a man who was anti-establishment before it was cool to be anti-establishment. Though he chafed at the “Impressionist” label that some critics (or in his words, “imbeciles”) used to describe his music, the symbolic, metaphorical nature of his works embody the core ideals of the Impressionist Era. Impressionist composers, writers and artists captured the overall essence of that which was being described, rather than depicting the finer details. Indeed, it is the essence, or core, of a work that evokes emotion and leaves an impression. Debussy used his broad cache of emotions to compose work that was considered by many of his contemporaries to be wildly strange and unconventional. They’re highly varied—jumpy and rousing at times, yet smooth and almost indolent at others. (It’s not really surprising, given that his personal life was like an especially saucy episode of “The Young and the Restless.”) Instead of telling a story, Debussy tells an emotion. He played a crucial role in yanking music from the grasp of the Romantic Era. Not that I have anything against Romantic music, per se. Just sayin.’ All we’ll have the opportunity to hear MORE Debussy as the Paris Festival continues!
The beehive of the Impressionist movement was, of course, Paris. It’s not in my budget to visit the City of Lights this year (or maybe ever…such is the life of a graduate student). It’s heartbreaking, I know. I’ve always steadfastly grasped the (as yet unrealized) notion that the Love of My Life will whisk me away to Paris. We will stroll hand in hand down Champs-Elysees and eat ridiculously fabulous pastries in a traditional, yet ultra romantic, café as white petals breeze outside the windows like snowflakes. Until my romantic (and slightly Impressionist?) dream comes true, I have the Paris Festival at the PSO to tide me over. And it has, so far, been amazing. I feel like I am being trained for the real thing; Heinz Hall looks spectacular in its Parisian décor. The numerous café tables, French artwork and the berets that ushers are sporting all contribute to the sparkling Parisian immersion.
The three-weekend long Paris Festival will feature a plethora of pre and post-concert goodies, as well as numerous educational lobby exhibits and all of the Impressionism that you can handle. Concert-wise, week one touted an extremely charismatic Gianandrea Noseda, who conducted Ottorino Respighi’s La Boutique Fantasque, Debussy’s “Iberia,” and Suite No. 1 and No. 2 from Manuel De Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat. All I can say is: magical. This weekend, there’s more Debussy (aka, my new favorite composer), much to my extreme delight. We’ll also be treated to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero and some GERSHWIN in the lobby after the concert!! Who could ask for anything more?
So I’m not going to Paris this year…but thanks to the PSO, I’m almost ok with that.