Debussy: Petite Suite


One of Debussy’s best loved works, the Petite Suite gives tantalising glimpses of the composer’s emerging impressionistic style.  Very effective for wind quintet and piano.

  • Instruments : Fl., Ob., Cl. (in Bb & A), Hn., Bsn., Pno
  • Difficulty : D – approx. ABRSM Grade 6-7
  • Duration : 13’00
  • ISMN : 979-0-708141-30-3
  • Portus Press reference : PPQP17


Claude Debussy (1862-1918) wrote his Petite Suite  (originally for piano four hands) in his post-student years, possibly following a request from his publisher, Jacques Durand, for a work accessible to amateur players. It was first performed in 1889 by Debussy and Durand at a Paris salon.  Its popularity flourished when Debussy’s colleague, Henri Büsser, produced – with Debussy’s blessing – a version for chamber orchestra.

It is a work of immediate lyric charm but is also probably the least characteristic work by Debussy to have found a place in the enduring repertory. Throughout the suite the voices of the French masters of the time – Fauré, Bizet, Massenet and Chabrier – are very much in evidence.  There are, however, glimpses of Debussy’s emerging impressionist style, especially in the opening movement – En Bateau  and the dreamlike third movement, a Menuet.  Both En Bateau and the second movement (Cortège) – which, rather bizarrely, depicts a genteel lady whose dress her pet monkey and attendant are trying to peek beneath – are settings of poems by Debussy’s favourite poet, Paul Verlaine.  The final movement – Ballet – rounds things off with an energetic dance.

Score Preview

   LISTEN – En Bateau

   LISTEN – Cortège

   LISTEN – Menuet

   LISTEN – Ballet

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