Composers > Anecdotes > Claude Debussy: - La Flûte de Pan/ Syrinx - - Melodrama and Flute Solo
by Georg Predota | January 5th, 2017

standard Claude Debussy: La Flûte de Pan/ Syrinx
Melodrama and Flute Solo

tumblr_n67hz7rn0g1qldolwo1_1280Claude Debussy composed very little music for the theatre. Although he conceived a substantial number of theatrical projects with the playwright, novelist, poet and translator Gabriel Mourey, they somehow never fully materialized. The notable exception is the three-act dramatic poem Psyché. In 1913, Debussy was asked to compose incidental music for the play, which recounts the myth of Psyché as told by the Latin author Apuleius in his Metamorphoses. Inserting the story of the death of Pan according to Plutarch’s version, Mourey supposedly requested “the last melody Pan plays before his death” to be performed from the wings of the stage. And the composer responded with an exceptional work for unaccompanied flute entitled La Flûte de Pan, known today as Syrinx. However, it is highly unlikely that Debussy’s music was played on the occasion of Pan’s death, but that it properly belongs in the first scene of the third act, a moment of intense lyricism in which the atmosphere is full of sensuousness and eroticism. Untangling this initial misattribution turns out to be a fascinating piece of musicological detective work!

During the early stages of composition Debussy writes, “So far, I have not found what is needed because a flute singing on the horizon must at once contain its emotion! That is, there is not time for repetitions, and exaggerated artificialness will coarsen the expression since the line or melodic pattern cannot rely on any interruption of color.” The program for the premiere