“ This piece is of a more serious cast than what we are normally dealing with on this site - with it, we are quite outside the realm of light music, but I will still make the same points that I habitually make - that each of us have our own way of listening to a piece of music, and as usual, I must emphasize that there is no right or wrong in any of this, only that for each if us that describes honestly our own individual perspective.
That said, I will simply say that I personally have always had trouble thinking of any work by Debussy as ecstatically happy, even in such movements as Jardins de la Pluie (at least the closing portion), l'Isle Joyeuse, or even a piece that distantly resembles the one under consideration - Les Collines d'Anacapri. Even Fetes, from Trois Nocturnes, sounds to me anything but Festive.
It is for me a matter of simply absorbing the notes, without searching for any meaning, not even one provided by the composer, and allowing the work to settle in without much thought, with any images to be generated by the mind in a totally subliminal manner. I simply cannot be preoccupied with factors outside the sphere of the actual musical composition, the very notes, the form, the tonal movement (very important for me) and take my subconscious cues from those. I do not attempt to ascertain any outside origin of what I'm listening to, nor 'ethnicize" the work in any manner.
This is not to imply that other listeners are incorrect in their manner of approach to apiece such as the one under discussion, but simply that what I read in this article, well put together as it is, happens not to be my own individual approach, and this stance that I always held was instilled even deeper within me by a mentor or mine whom I had occasion to mention previously.
I would say the same about the orchestration of this piece. I tend to judge it by the total effect, the totality of the sound, and not how instruments answer one another (violin answering oboe, with a countermelody in the cello or the clarinet, followed by a horn fanfare, etc.). Moreover, the same selection might be realized orchestrally in numerous ways, depending on how the orchestrator individually views the piece. For my part, I would say that the idea of an orchestral rendering of this piece is perfectly feasible, but the manner in which it was done here to my ears sounds somewhat to harsh or strident at times.
This piece I know under the title "Danse" with a subtitle "Tarantelle Styrienne" which I feel should be accepted or rejected entirely according to how one views or hears the music. It has a degree of currency in the repertoire of Debussy's piano music, and I wouldn't say for certain that it was dependent on Ravel's orchestration to acquire any degree of familiarity or even popularity. Ravel similarly orchestrated another piano piece by Debussy; the middle Sarabande movement from his suite "Pour le Piano" which has not in this case been the vehicle for this movement to acquire a degree of popularity. And as for the orchestration itself one should feel free to once again accept or reject the result as representing the last word - in both cases it is purely a matter of interpretation.
I will say that despite the fact that Debussy has become historically known as one of the great innovators in music, adopting many novel techniques that advanced his impressionistic approach, this piece is nevertheless one of many composed during his early period that could be singled out as absolute gems - one could point to the two Arabesques, the Suite Bergamasque, the Petite Suite, the Ballade, the cantata L'Enfant Prodigue, and many others. There are also a few works from this period such as Printemps and the Fantasie for Piano and Orchestra that exhibit a more romantic manner, but nothing in any of them that goes off the beaten track. All of these pieces that I mention I would describe as thoroughly recommendable and worth cultivating. On the other hand, many works composed in his last period could by comparison be described as stillborn and not successful, but that is a purely subjective opinion.
I will sum this whole thing up by saying that everyone's approach to a work, whether by listening actively or contemplating silently, is individually different. What I'm simply trying to say here is that though Robert has given a very engaging personal impression of this piece as he perceives it, a perfectly honest appraisal; nevertheless, it happens to not be my own manner of perception and appraisal.
William Zucker ”