Each larger section can be further divided into smaller sections and themes, which are arranged to give the piece a roughly symmetrical structure. The A section can itself be divided into three smaller sections: a1 m. The introduction of the piece a1 features the G major pentatonic collection in ascending block chords evocative of organum chant with lots of parallel fifths. This motif repeats itself twice, but each time the bass moves down a single step, so that the first repeat of the motif takes place over an F in the bass and the second repeat over an E.
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A quintessential example of musical impressionism , the piece depicts the rise of a cathedral from the water and subsequent return to the depths — complete with bells chiming, priests chanting, and organ playing. The ancient Breton legend of Ys. It was famous throughout the region for its beautiful gardens and buildings. Run by a king named Gradlon or Gralon who lived in a palace of marble, cedar, and gold, it was rich in commerce and the arts.
It was also very vulnerable to flooding, being situated below sea level. To protect the city, a huge dike was built around it with a single gate that opened for ships during low tide. The exact reason why Ys became submerged in the sea varies.
There are many different versions of the legend. Most depict Gradlon as a pious, devoted king and father who was the holder of the only key to the city gate. His daughter, Dahut, on the other hand is usually described as a sinful, deceitful princess. In some versions, Princess Dahut holds a secret banquet for her lover and the two, drunk with wine, steal the key from her father and open the gates, letting the waters flood in.
Another version says that Dahut steals the key to let her secret lover in to the city during the night, mistakenly flooding the city. In these versions, King Gradlon was said to have converted to Christianity. He agreed to do so, but devoted father as he was, he tried to save his daughter. A voice called out to throw his sinful daughter into the sea or he would not escape the waters that were about to overtake him. He does so and she turns into a mermaid. All versions agree that Dahut does not escape her fate.
Ys becomes submerged in the sea. King Gradlon escapes and takes refuge in Quimper which becomes the new capital. Interestingly, a statue of Gradlon still stands between the spires of the Cathedral of Saint Corentin in Quimper. Then after a section marked Augmentez progressivement Slowly growing , the cathedral emerges and the grand organ is heard with a powerful fortissimo.
This is the loudest part of the piece. The cathedral then sinks back down into the ocean and the organ is heard once more, but this time from under water.
Finally, it is out of sight and only the bells are heard at a distant pianissimo. Hear It For Yourself!
The Story of Debussy’s “The Sunken Cathedral”
Debussy, La Cathédrale Engloutie