Claude Debussy planned to write a cycle of sonatas for “diverse instruments” as a homage to French composers of the 18th century. The project was interrupted by the composer's death in 1918, after he had composed only half of the projected works. Viola players are fortunate that one of the completed sonatas features their instrument (the sonata for flute, viola and harp of 1915). The other works that Debussy completed were the sonata for violin and piano (1916–1917) and this sonata for cello and piano. Written in 1915, it has become a staple of the cellist’s repertoire, and is now being made available to adventurous violists who long for richer duo repertoire.
Although composed within the classical proportions of sonata form, it is nevertheless a forward-looking work punctuated by complex rhythmic interplay, dramatic changes of tempo and harmonic ambiguity. Debussy makes frequent use of pizzicato, ponticello, flautando and other effects in the string writing to create a work of vivid colours and beguiling beauty.
This edition is based on all available sources including Debussy’s autograph manuscript. Fingerings and bowings by the arranger are included in the viola part.
The premiere recording of this arrangement, performed by Roger Benedict and Simon Tedeschi, is available on the ABC Classics label.