Debussy was seriously ill at the outbreak of World War I, and struggled to compose. A wartime performance of the Saint- Saëns Septet prompted the composer to consider writing chamber music again – for the first time since his string quartet of 1893. The plan was for a sequence of six sonatas for diverse instruments, harking back to the 18th century practice in France. The composer wrote ‘I wrote like a fury or like one who is doomed to die the next morning’.
He viewed these works as a memorial to the young French soldiers killed in the trenches. The cello sonata was premiered in Paris in 1916 by a young infantryman on a cello made from an ammunition box and an old door. His health declining further, the violin sonata, turned out to be his last work. Debussy dismissed it as ‘an example of what may be produced by a sick man in time of war’. The final three sonatas were never composed.
This album concludes with three rarely heard piano pieces completed by Robert Orledge. Toomai des Éléphants inspired by Kipling was originally intended as No.11 in the second book of Preludes. Petite Valse , began as an 18 bar outline sketched in 1915, and receiving its world premiere recording ‘A Night in the House of Usher’ is a fantasy for piano (or organ) compiled from Debussy’s sketches for the one act opera (1915-17)after Edgar Allan Poe which was left unfinished.
Sonata for Cello & Piano 144
1. I Prologue: Lent, sostenuto e molto risoluto 5.19
2. II Sérénade: Modérément animé 3.54
3. III Final: Animé, léger et nerveux 3.52
Sonata for Flute, Viola & Harp 145
4. I Pastorale. Lento, dolce rubato 6.42
5. II Interlude. Tempo di minuetto 5.43
6. III Final: Allegro moderato ma risoluto 4.46
Sonata for Violin & Piano 148
7. I Allegro vivo 5.22
8. II Intermède: fantasque et léger 4.48
9. III Finale: très animé 4.57
10. Toomai des éléphants 6.21
11. Petite Valse 1.54
12. A Night in the House of Usher 6.59