Merry Christmas to Debussy from Ives

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Program Note

Merry Christmas to Debussy from Ives is a somewhat elaborate re-orchestration of Debussy’s last song in the style of Charles Ives.

From the beginning of World War I up to about 1921 Ives composed virtually no music, instead turning out pages and pages of prose. In his “Essays before a sonata” he famously writes: “…Debussy’s content would have been worthier his manner if he had hoed corn or sold newspapers for a living.”

At the same time (the outbreak of the World War I) Debussy, already sick in body with cancer, was sickened in spirit and vowed to write nothing more. However, finally he relented and before his death in the spring of 1918 completed his Violin Sonata, and anguished an angry “Carol for Homeless Children” for which he wrote the words as well.

I do not know whether or not Ives actually had the chance to hear this particular song by Debussy, which predicts the disastrous century to come. Would Ives have changed his mind and find more in Debussy than “perfume”? What follows is an attempt to reconcile between the two.

Matti Kovler

Performers



Soprano: Verunka Vlkova
New England Conservatory Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: John Page

«…We might offer the suggestion that Debussy’s content would have been worthier his manner if he had hoed corn or sold newspapers for a living, for in this way he might have gained a deeper vitality and a truer theme to sing at night and of a Sunday.»

–Charles Ives