Thesis submission ID 965 | created | last updated

Conor Linehan, Orchestrations of French piano music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: a pianist's perspective
DMusPerf, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2023

Volumes, pp.: 1 vol (ix, 204 pp)  
Supervisor(s): Denise Neary
Repository (online):
Repository (hard copy): Royal Irish Academy of Music Library

General specialism: Musicology: Performance Studies
Key terms, concepts: Orchestration
Key terms, persons: Ravel; Debussy; Satie; Fauré
Key terms, places: France
Key terms, genres, instruments: Piano music; Piano duet music; Orchestral music

Regarding orchestrations of the piano repertoire, French music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries constitutes a uniquely rich canon. While a great deal has been written about this repertoire, this thesis attempts to create a greater awareness among pianists of the wealth of orchestrations of this music. It examines, in detail, Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of his Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, the four movements he orchestrated from Le Tombeau de Couperin and his orchestration of ‘Alborada del Gracioso’, the fourth piece from Miroirs. Also explored are Debussy’s orchestrations of two of his piano pieces – La plus que lente and Berceuse heroïque, as well as his orchestration of the piano parts of four of his songs and the Prémière Rhapsodie for
clarinet and piano.

Orchestrations of the music discussed span a timescale from the period of the works’ original composition up to the last twenty years. André Caplet’s orchestration of Debussy’s Children’s Corner dates from 1911, while Colin Matthews began his ground-breaking orchestrations of Debussy’s complete Préludes in 2001 – they were published as a set by Faber and Faber in 2012. The thesis offers a critical engagement with both Caplet and Matthews’s works, focusing on Matthews’s orchestrations of three of the Préludes - ‘La Cathédrale engloutie’, ‘Ondine’ and ‘Feux d’artifice’. It contrasts Caplet’s faithful translation of Debussy’s notation with Matthews’s more radical interventions. An interview between the author and Colin Matthews is included in Appendix A and sheds considerable light on Matthews’s creative process.

Orchestrations by Erik Satie’s contemporaries of his works are explored, with an emphasis on how these orchestrations have affected perceptions of his music, while a final chapter concerns orchestrations of music for piano duet, focusing on three pieces – Henri Busser’s orchestration of Debussy’s Petite Suite, Ravel’s orchestration of his suite Ma mère l’Oye and Henri Rabaud’s orchestration of Gabriel Fauré’s Dolly.

Orchestrations of this canon of French piano works reveal it to be open to continuing reevaluation and re-interpretation. Their imprints can be seen in later editions of some of the original piano pieces, on which they shed considerable interpretative light. Above all, they ‘defrost’ the scores so that they may be seen, not as rigid sets of instructions to be followed, but as living, evolving calls to informed, creative interpretation.
Thesis submission ID 965