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Oxford Lieder Festival - Debussy: A Life in Song

Saturday October 13, 2018 at 11:00
Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, Oxford
Phone for tickets: 01865 591276
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Tickets "at the door" - until sold out

We welcome Richard Langham Smith – a Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres for services to French music and culture – to lead a fascinating day exploring the life and music of Claude Debussy, joined by Helen Abbott, an expert in French poetry and music, and some superb musicians.

Morning Session

11am - 11.45am - The Early Years

Richard Langham Smith (speaker)

Richard Langham Smith introduces the young Debussy, taking us through his earliest compositions and the years of the extraordinary songs written for his muse, Madame Vasnier.

12pm-1pm - Debussy and his muse

Gillian Keith (soprano), Simon Lepper (piano)

At 18, Debussy fell in love with Marie-Blanche Vasnier, a captivating society lady and talented singer. This programme – already performed to great acclaim – includes some of Debussy’s most ravishing songs, written for Mme Vasnier, and is illuminated by revealing and poignant readings from diaries and letters, allowing a closer look into their extraordinary relationship.


A light lunch is available to pre-book (£7)

1.45pm-2.30pm - Watteau and the Fêtes galantes

Helen Abbott delves into the poetry of Verlaine with particular reference to Debussy’s Fêtes galantes while Richard Langham Smith discusses Debussy and impressionism, highlighting the paintings of Jean-Antoine Watteau and their significance for the composer. The lecture is illuminated by slides of the paintings and performances of the songs in question.

2.45pm-3.30pm - The Final Years

Our speakers conclude the day in conversation about Debussy’s late songs, including settings of his own texts in the Proses lyriques and his settings of Mallarmé, also illustrated with live performances.

Josephine Goddard (soprano), Rory Carver (tenor), Simon Lepper (piano)

nb A 'Debussy Day Pass' is available to purchase for £65 which will enable you to attend all talks and concerts (excluding meals) at the festival on 13th October 2018. Please book your day pass here

Jacqueline du Pré Music Building
St Hilda's College, Cowley Place
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