Debussy’s Petite Suite was published in its original four-hands version in 1889, and transcriptions for solo piano and for violin and piano appeared in 1906. What catapulted it to true popularity, however, was its 1907 adaptation for chamber orchestra by Henri Büsser. The music takes on a vivid cast through Büsser’s orchestration. In En Bateau, the first movement of the suite, a solo flute spins out the long melody against murmuring rolled chords in the harp—a quintessentially French (and Debussian) sound—and the flute also gives voice to the fleeting whole-tone allusions in the veiled timbre produced at the bottom of its range. In Cortège,the second movement, woodwinds endow the lines with snappy gusto, and the brasses join in briefly to add a touch of brilliance. English horn adds its pungent tone to the Menuet, and tambourine adds a touch of pizzazz to the Ballet. Debussy was fond of this orchestration, and he programmed it himself as a touring conductor.
– James L. Keller
– Complied by Helen Hazard