Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Marche écossaise sur un thème populaire
The piano duet Marche écossaise (Scottish March) arose from a peculiar encounter described by Debussy’s biographer Edward Lockspeiser:
“At his humble lodgings, about 1891, Debussy received a house-call, unannounced, from a distinguished Scottish officer, general Meredith Reid. Speaking not a word of French, he thrust before the bewildered composer his elegant visiting card. Composer and general thereupon faced each other in a dumb-show of perplexity, until an interpreter was discovered in a nearby tavern, where the commission was happily received to arrange and orchestrate a march traditionally associated with the general’s ancestors, the ancient Earls of Ross, known also as the Lords of the Isles. The original edition bore the title, Marche des anciens comtes de Ross, dédiée à leur descendant le général Meredith Reid…
The general could only have been pleased with his prize, a crisp presentation of the march tune, light-textured and trim, enclosing a rather dreamy interlude. Debussy orchestrated the piece at a later date.
© Shirley Fleming