Three manuscript sources for the second series of Debussy's Fêtes Galantes are known today. Two of them, each containing music for all three songs, are housed in the Département de la musique at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. A third manuscript, of an early version of "Colloque sentimental," is preserved in the Frederick R. Koch Collection at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Close study of these documents raises the possibility that Debussy was not originally planning a group of Verlaine's Fêtes Galantes at all, as he lists a poem entitled "Crépuscule du soir" on one of the manuscripts.
Professor Rolf suggests some conceivable poetic sources for Debussy's projected setting of "Crépuscule du soir" and then demonstrates why the composer might have aborted his initial concept. This study posits a chronology for the three songs that ultimately comprise Fêtes Galantes, série 2, based on both extrinsic and intrinsic musical evidence, and takes into account the early setting of "Colloque sentimental" as well. The compositional genesis of this collection reflects the process of Debussy's sublimation of his former Wagnerian tendencies and the emergence of a new compositional direction, one that parallels the dawn of a new poetic movement.
This is a part of the conference, 'Debussy: Text and Ideas', which is available in full on the Gresham College website.
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
Gresham College has been giving free public lectures since 1597. This tradition continues today with all of our five or so public lectures a week being made available for free download from our website.