Claude Debussy
Clair de Lune
No. 3 from Suite Bergamasque

With its ethereal mood and sense of mystery, Clair de Lune beautifully evokes Verlaine’s lines about “the sad and lovely moonlight that sets the birds dreaming in the trees”.

ID: 51
Key: D-flat Major
Year: 1890 (publ. 1905)
Level: 7
Period: Impressionism
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Mysterious masqueraders

Debussy's most famous piano piece sounds very fluid and soft contoured, much like a landscape seen in Moonlight. The paradox is that here, as in most of Debussy's music, much careful attention needs to be directed towards rhythmic accuracy and the many precise markings in the score, in order to arrive at a performance that sounds like it's truly floating in the air. Apart from a couple of brief climaxes, the dynamic range stays within p to ppp, placing high demands on exactness of touch, voicing and colour. The title alludes to the eponymous poem by Verlaine:

Moonlight

Your soul is a select landscape
Where charming masqueraders and bergamaskers go
Playing the lute and dancing and almost
Sad beneath their fantastic disguises.

All sing in a minor key
 Of victorious love and the opportune life,
 They do not seem to believe in their happiness
And their song mingles with the moonlight,

With the still moonlight, sad and beautiful,
That sets the birds dreaming in the trees
And the fountains sobbing in ecstasy,
The tall slender fountains among marble statues.

Paul Verlaine, 1869

Background

The poem by Verlaine which inspired Suite Bergamasque, has given its name also to the suite's most popular piece. Indeed, Clair de Lune (Moonlight) is often said to be the most famous of all Debussy's works. Its name was changed from Promenade Sentimentale only shortly before publication, to indicate the connection of this music with the Symbolist movement, of which Verlaine was one of the leaders. Reacting against realism, a typical "daylight" form of literature, the Symbolists tried to illuminate more inaccessible regions of the human soul, through creating suggestive images and evoking moods. The moon naturally became their favourite symbol, spreading as it does a mysterious, indirect light on the dark side of the earth.


Forum posts about this piece:

Pieces by difficulty by upcoming0682
Hello, Can you help me ranking the following pieces by difficulty? It doesn't need to be an exact ranking. By group can be fine - Debussy, Doctor gradus ad parnassum - Debussy,...

Pedals in Clair de Lune by oli006
Hi everyone, I am currently learning Clair de Lune as a performance piece and need some advice about pedalling. I am practicing mostly on an upright piano with no sostenuto pedal. I have found...

Advice on becoming a better teacher by pianoholic
Hello everyone! I am currently 17 years old and have only started teaching piano a few weeks ago. I currently have 2 students both of whom began playing the piano very recently. I must admit that I...

Tempo Rubato by softbn
Hello. In the Second part of Claire the lune -  the tempo rubato part - I noticed many many pianist -  it to say all play the first bar of it veery slow I mean I can’t even count to that....

Melodic line by softbn
Helllo. How do you accent the melody in a piece ? I know that when there’s a double note sound in the right hand as in Claire de Lune first bar in the right hand you play the highest note a bit louder...

Worth Playing at a Senior Recital? by winsto7
Hey all! I just was wondering if this would be worth playing at a senior recital along with La Campanella, Claire De Lune, and an original piece by me. This is meant to be non-stuffy and not classical,...

Clair de lune by softbn
Hello In Debussy Clair de lune - on the first page - does the left hand also have the melody? Or is it just the accomp...

From Clair de Lune to Revolutionary Etude? by deltoro
Hey everyone, I wanted to ask if I could get some tips. I'm an amateur, I have played for a while, I can play Clair de Lune pretty good now. I have not mastered it, but it's allright. I wonder how I get...

What piece should I learn next? by thepianolad
Hi, I am wondering if anyone has any piece recommendations for me to learn next. I have learnt so far: Fantaisie Impromptu, Clair de Lune, Rondo Alla Turca, Nocturne in Eb Major, Etude in E major...

[Video] Debussy - Clair de Lune | In-depth tutorial by antune
Hey guys, I just wanted to share with you my new tutorial on Debussy’s Clair de lune. In this video, you’ll find information on approaching the piece with hands separate & both hands. I...

Need helps for Clair De Lune by dungtangtri
Recently I have started learning Clair De Lune by myself. I am wondering about some chords as don’t know whether the chords are RH and LF are together or RH then Lh. Also I would really appreciate if you can...

Next Song Recommendations by shrubbery
Hey, I've played piano for a bit over 10 years now and I'm struggling to find the next song I want to play. I've looked through the forums and I see some good ideas, but I'm having trouble...

Anyone got any general advice for improving live performances? by tzatzikiviki
I started playing the violin when I was 6 years old and the piano around 3 years later. I played the violin for 12 years in total and as it was always my main instrument, I ended up performing on it [b]a...

Next Piece by cjb368
Hello, I will be starting my 4th year of piano studies in 2021. I am self taught, except for 5 lessons my wife gave me as a gift. The lessons were good,the teacher helped me with some problems(lack of...

I play guitar at my school, but want to change to piano. What should i do??? by benjafr
Hello, my name is Benjamin. I'm 17 years old from Norway. In our country, we have "high schools" dedicated to music. Where we have a main instrument, and a secondary instrument. We get...

Am going to begin Clair de Lune, any suggestions (self taught, 1 year) by choppychopin
Would really appreciate some tips or suggestions from people who are familiar with the piece, not really sure what im getting...

Theory for memorization by jharrell12
Hello Piano Street. I have a question (my first actually) concerning theory in regards to memorization. A little background first: I am in my mid twenties and have played piano on and off for around...

Debussy Clair de Lune! by gbgfestival
Do you like Debussy Clair de Lune? :) Soon I am going to start 5 minutes MASTERCLASSES videorecordings so hang on!  8)

Ivan Moravec by blazekenny
Hi, I'd like to share some recordings of the Czech pianist Ivan Moravec with you. He is definitely one of my most favorite pianists, and I feel he could be acknowledged more, especially post-mortem....


Members who like this piece have also downloaded:

Debussy: Clair de Lune (moonlight) No. 3 in D-flat Major (published in 1905) . DOWNLOAD piano sheet music from Piano Street digital sheet music library.
Clair de Lune (moonlight) in D-flat Major No. 3 by the composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918). This piano piece was composed in 1905 and is part of Debussy's Suite Bergamasque.