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Originally published in Saxophone Journal (November/December 2010)

 

Debussy’s

Rapsodie pour Orchestre et Saxophone: 

Timeline of Events

 

James R Noyes

© 2009

 

~ 1901 ~

 

[Summer]: George Longy, acting as intermediary between Hall and Debussy, delivers a cash payment to secure a commissioned “morceau pour orchestre et saxophone obligé.”

 

August 28: Claude Debussy, in a letter to his publisher, Eugéne Fromont, requests a score of the Nocturnes to be sent to Georges Longy.

 

~ 1903 ~

 

May 30: Longy, again on behalf of Elise Hall, visits Debussy in Paris, inquiring about the commission.  Having written nothing, Debussy assures him he is nearly finished.  A published vocal score of Pelléas et Mélisande, signed and dated May 1903, is given to Hall in recognition of the composer’s obligation to her.

 

 

“á Madame Rich. J. Hall, Hommage de reconnaissance,

Sincère et profonde, Claude Debussy Mai/1903.

May 31 – June 5: Debussy writes to his wife in Bichain (60 miles southeast of Paris) regarding the “saxophone lady” and her commission.  He mentions, “hours of indescribable irritation,” but also, “I would like to achieve something very good, in order to reward these people for their patience.”

 

June 4: Debussy drafts a letter to Longy, stating, “I would really like to make her happy!”  Longy visits on  June 4, before the letter is sent.  A letter to his wife, written the same day, states, “Does it not appear indecent to you, a woman in love with a saxophone, whose lips suck at the wooden mouthpiece of this ridiculous instrument?”

June 8: Debussy writes to André Messager about Rapsodie orientale, and how he “worked just like in the good old days of Pelléas…”

 

June 29: Debussy, still in Paris, writes again to Messager, mentioning, “Orchestrating in a temperature of 30 degrees centigrade is taking enjoyment a little far!”  The Rapsodie manuscript includes 65 specific indications regarding instrumental orchestration.

 

Late July–Early August: Debussy, now with his wife in Bichain, writes to Pierre Louÿs about Rapsodie arabe, “Forgive me...for some days I’ve been: the-man-who’s-working-on-a-Fantasy-for-E∫-saxophone (try saying that three times without taking a breath...).”

 

Early August: Debussy writes to his publisher, Jacques Durand, mentioning a trip to Paris involving “unlikely commissions” [saxophone, and another for chromatic harp].

 

August 17: While in Paris, Debussy sells Rapsodie pour saxophone et orchestre (sic) to Durand for 100 francs.  The composer withholds the manuscript from both Durand and Hall.

 

~ 1905 ~

 

September: Debussy, in a letter to Durand, states “the ‘saxophone lady’ is politely asking for her fantasy” and that she “deserves some reward.”

 

 ~ 1908 ~

 

Although there is no evidence to suggest Debussy worked on Rapsodie beyond August 1903, according to the title page of “Esquisse d’un ‘Rhapsodie Mauresque’ pour orchestre et saxophone principal, ” 1908 is the year he completes work on Hall’s commission.  This manuscript remains with the composer until his death.

 

“à Madame E. Hall, avec l'hommage respectueux de Claude Debussy (1901 = 1908.)”

~ 1918 ~

 

March 25: Debussy dies.

 

April 24: Writing to André Lambinet, Jean Roger-Ducasse mentions his “secret” work on Rapsodie.  The source for this work is Debussy’s original manuscript, “Esquisse d’un ‘Rhapsodie Mauresque’ pour orchestre et saxophone principal.

 

May 5: Roger-Ducasse completes a “transcription” [saxophone part, MS 1001bis at Bibliothèque nationale in Paris] and an “arrangement” [piano score, also MS 1001bis]. 

 

May–July: “Immersing” himself in Debussy’s methods of “treating the instruments,” Roger-Ducasse completes the orchestral score Rapsodie [Mauresque] pour orchestre et saxophone obligé [MS 1001], following 95% of Debussy’s indications. 

 

July 26: Writing to his chief proof-reader, Lucien Garband, Durand mentions the “necessary final corrections” to Rapsodie.

 

October 28: In a letter to Debussy’s widow, Roger-Ducasse mentions a completed orchestration of Rapsodie and possible premiere performance at Société nationale in May 1919.

 

~ 1919 ~

 

January: Rapsodie pour orchestre et saxophone is published by Durand.  The printed edition is based on the Roger-Ducasse manuscripts.

May 14: Rapsodie pour orchesetre et saxophone is premiered at Société nationale with André Caplet conducting, and Yves Mayeur, soloist.

 

c.1919    “Esquisse d’un ‘Rhapsodie Mauresque’ pour orchestre et saxophone principal” is delivered to Hall.

 

Rapsodie pour orchestre et saxophone

Summary of Manuscripts

 

~ Holograph Short Score ~

[Hall MS]

Title:                “Esquisse d’un ‘Rhapsodie Mauresque’ pour orchestre et saxophone principal” [Hall MS]

 

Style:                Structurally complete short-score, written mostly on three to four staves, with detailed notes

                          about the orchestration and numerous performance indications.

 

Author:             Claude Debussy, who includes the dedication, “à Madame E. Hall, avec l'hommage

                           respectueux de Claude Debussy (1901 = 1908.)”

 

Written:             May 30 – early August 1903, in the hand of the author.

 

Location:            1903 – 1918:                    Claude Debussy (Paris)

                            1918 – c.1919:                  Jean Roger-Ducasse, Jacques Durand, Lucien Garban (Paris)

                            c.1919 – 1921:                  Elise Hall (Boston)

                            1922 – 1927:                     William Bigelow (Boston)

                            1927 – present:                New England Conservatory (Boston)

~ Piano Score ~

[MS 1001bis]

 

Title:                  Rapsodie [Mauresque] pour orchestre et saxophone obligé

Style:                 Solo saxophone part and piano score [MS 1001bis]

 

Author:             Claude Debussy, source material taken directly from Hall Manuscript.

 

Written:            April - May 1918; in the hand of Jean Roger-Ducasse

 

~ Orchesral Score ~

[MS 1001]

Title:                  Rapsodie [Mauresque] pour orchestre et saxophone obligé

 

Style:                 Orchesral score

Author:             Claude Debussy, source material taken directly from Hall Manuscript.

                           Additional orchestration based on careful study of Debussy's methods.

 

Written:            May-July 1918; in the hand of Jean Roger-Ducasse

 

Location:           1918:                                Jean Roger-Ducasse (Paris)

                           1918 – 1924:                    Jacques Durand (Paris)

                           1924 – present:                Bibliothèque nationale (Paris)

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