To me, the Romantic period really ends with Brahms. Clearly it did go on, but even by end of his life, the Impressionists had come to dominate classical music — at least as a going concern. And you can hear the continuity between Brahms and Claude Debussy, our featured artist today.
I don’t want to get far into his career — he really came into his full power in his early thirties with pieces like, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. And he created great works up to shortly before his death of rectal cancer at 55, like arguably the greatest piece ever written for solo flute, Syrinx.
Debussy is really were classic music starts to become un-linked from standard tonality. Harmony becomes much more a matter of setting an emotional tone. He is also the first composer that I know of who really understood chromaticism, and was able to make it work in the context of the larger work. We see some of this in the following early work that he wrote around the age 25, Petite Suite — a work for piano with four hands. It’s also be transcribed for other groups of instruments. I think it is notable just for having such a broad range of colors. It’s a gorgeous work.
And here again, we get to enjoy Martha Argerich on the piano. She is joined by the Romanian pianist Cristina Marton.