Images (composition)

Images (usually pronounced in French) is a suite of six compositions for solo piano by Claude Debussy. They were published in two books/series, each consisting of three pieces. These works are distinct from Debussy's Images pour orchestre. The first book was composed between 1901 and 1905, and the second book was composed in 1907.[1] The total duration is approximately 30 minutes. With respect to the first series of Images, Debussy wrote to his publisher, Jacques Durand: "Without false pride, I feel that these three pieces hold together well, and that they will find their place in the literature of the piano ... to the left of Schumann, or to the right of Chopin... "[2]

Debussy wrote another collection, Images oubliées (L. 87), in the Winter of 1894 and dedicated it to Yvonne Lerolle, daughter of the painter Henry Lerolle.


  • Book 1 (or "1st series") (L. 110)
  1. "Reflets dans l'eau" (Reflections in the water) in D major
  2. "Hommage à Rameau" (Tribute to Rameau) in G minor
  3. "Mouvement" (Movement) in C major
  • Book 2 (or "2nd series") (L. 111)
  1. "Cloches à travers les feuilles" (Bells through the leaves) in B whole-tone (the middle section is in E major)
  2. "Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut" (And the moon descends on the temple that was) in E minor
  3. "Poissons d'or" (Golden fish) in F major
  • Images oubliées (L. 87)
  1. "Lent (mélancolique et doux)" in F minor
  2. "Souvenir du Louvre" in C minor
  3. "Quelques aspects de 'Nous n'irons plus au bois [fr]' parce qu'il fait un temps insupportable" in D minor

No. 2 is the first version of "Sarabande" from Pour le piano (L. 95, 1901); no. 3 is an early version of "Jardins sous la pluie" from Estampes (L. 100, 1903).

Inspirations and musical analysisEdit

"Reflets dans l'eau" is one of the many pieces Debussy wrote about water;[citation needed] in particular, light reflecting off its surface. The piece creates an image of water being not quite still, then becoming rapid, then decreasing in motion again. "Reflets dans l'eau" is also an example of the new tone colours Debussy discovered for the piano in this part of his life, and it is considered to be one of his greatest works for the instrument.[3] Techniques such as arpeggio, pedal-point, staccato, tremolo and glissando are used to depict moving water.[4]

"Hommage à Rameau" is more subdued. It is a sarabande honouring the memory of Jean-Philippe Rameau.[2]

"Mouvement" is the most abstract designation of the pieces. It is a perpetuum mobile, meaning that it is built around a continuous stream of notes.[5]

"Cloches à travers les feuilles" was inspired by the bells in the church steeple in the village of Rahon in Jura, France.[6] Rahon was the hometown of Louis Laloy, a close friend of Debussy and also his first biographer.[citation needed]

"Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut" (And the moon descends on the temple that was) was dedicated to Laloy.[7] The name of the piece, which evokes images of East Asia, was suggested by Laloy, a sinologist. The piece is evocative of Indonesian gamelan music, which famously influenced Debussy.[2]

"Poissons d'or" was probably inspired by an image of a golden fish in Chinese lacquer artwork or embroidery, or on a Japanese print. Other sources suggest it may have been inspired by actual goldfish swimming in a bowl,[2] though the French for goldfish is 'poisson rouge' (red fish).


Many famous pianists of the 20th century have recorded Debussy's Images, such as Walter Gieseking and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. The French musical critic Jean Roy wrote of Claudio Arrau's 1979 recording (Diapason d'Or n° 266 & 334) as being "unrivalled".[8]

A recording by Noriko Ogawa[9] won the Editor's Choice of Gramophone and is noted favorably by Stephen Walsh in BBC Radio 3's Building a Library series.[10] A recording by Marc-André Hamelin is noted for its "intriguing interpretive vision".[11]


  1. ^ "Images. Piano. Séries 1 et 2". National Library of France. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Andres, Robert. "An introduction to the solo piano music of Debussy and Ravel". BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  3. ^ Lederer, Victor (2007). Debussy: The Quiet Revolutionary. New York: Amadeus Press.
  4. ^ Park, Sun Hye (13 September 2012). Elements of Impressionism evoked in Debussy and Ravel's Reflets dans l'eau and Jeux d'eau: The theme of water (Thesis). University of Washington. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  5. ^ DuBose, Joseph. "Images I – Claude Debussy". Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  6. ^ "Le blog de La librairie Heurtebise". Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  7. ^ Anderson, John C. "John Clement Anderson: Images – Série II – 2 Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut". Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  8. ^ "Claude Debussy (1862–1918)".
  9. ^ "Noriko Ogawa: Pianist: Full Biography". Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  10. ^ Walsh, Stephen. "Building a Library: Debussy: Images – Stephen Walsh with a personal recommendation from recordings of Debussy's 2 books of Images for piano". BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  11. ^ Beaumont, Réa (2 February 2015). "Debussy – Images; Preludes II – Marc-André Hamelin". The Whole Note. Toronto. Retrieved 27 December 2016. Hamelin executes the intricate passagework with fluidity and ease, exposing an array of subtle tone colours.

External linksEdit