An Ox on the Roof

wed 5 jun 2019 21:00 
Composer: Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy La chute de la maison Usher.


Today is de fourth episode of An Ox on the Roof by Thea Derks. In this show she loosely follows the plea of her book An Ox on the Roof: modern music after 1900 in bird’s-eye view, an introduction to contemporary music in layman’s terms.

In the previous episode of An Ox on the Roof music sounded of a.o. Alban Berg and Anton Webern, who together with Arnold Schönberg formed the so-called ‘Second Viennese School’. They went down in the history books as the representatives of the atonal music, in which they breached through the hierarchy of tonality by giving all twelve half notes of the octave ‘equal rights’. The American Ruth Crawford is a kindred spirit to this kind of music.

In France, especially composers such as Maurice Ravel and in particular Claude Debussy searched for other ways to bypass the gravity of the tonic. It was Debussy in particular who found inspiration in non-Western tonal scales such as pentatonics (in which the octave is redistributed into five tones, roughly the black keys of the piano) and whole-tone scales (the octave is divided over equal tone steps). Because of their ‘vague music’ they were called ‘impressionists’.

Today we broadcast a recording of the opera La chute de la maison Usher of Claude Debussy, on a libretto of its own after the eponymous story by Edgar Allan Poe. He worked on it for years, but did not finish his work, because the music, for his taste, remained too much in traditional harmonies. Robert Orledge finished this work in 2004 using Debussy’s own sketches.


Claude Debussy.

La chute de la maison Usher.

Cécile De Boever, soprano. Yves Saelens, tenor.

Geert Smits & Henk Neven, baritone.

Radio Chamber Philharmony conducted by Kees Bakels.

Tip: if you buy the Ox via the website boekenbestellen.nl, you will receive a copy with personal dedication.   

Composition, presentation and technique: Thea Derks

Produced & presented by: