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Feux d'artifice, from Préludes, Book II Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy’s two books of Preludes, implying homage to both Chopin and Bach,
revel in the composer’s innovative piano techniques. Among French music’s most
avant-garde expressions, they also contain some of Debussy’s most atonal sorties. The
second book was published in 1913.
With a multitude of rhythms, melodies and abrupt surprises, Feux d'artifice displays
the lavish “bouquet” that comes at the end of a fireworks show, so vividly reflected on
the waters of the Seine during Bastille Day celebrations. La Marseillaise appears as an
atomized aphorism.

Tanya Gabrielian

The first volume of the Préludes was composed within the remarkably short time of
two months (between the beginning of December 1909 and the beginning of February
Feux d'artifice, the tightrope act with which Debussy concludes his two volumes of
Preludes, is remarkable not so much for its pyrotechnic innovations as for its
anticipation of the composition styles of the future. Feux d'artifice ranks as a
completely atonal composition, because its harmonic structure lacks any consistent
point of reference. The impression of novelty is further enhanced by the extremely
fragmented and amorphous nature of its form and thematic material. This is not to
say, however, that the piece does not evoke specific images: The slumbering smoke of
Bengal candles emitting single sparks, the crackling of rockets, the gradual parabolic
descent of stars, the whirring of Catherine wheels, the blinding radiance of brightly-
coloured bouquets, everything that sparkles and shines in the night, the entire magic
of light is contained in this music
Alfred Cortot