Göteborgs Symfoniker
Available until 14 April 2023

Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

“Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune” is based on a poem by Mallarmé and depicts a faun who wakes up on a beach in Sicily and remembers his erotic excesses. The opening, with the solitary and soaring flute, is one of classical music’s most well-known stanzas. Conductor: Eivind Gullberg Jensen.


The French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) is considered a pioneer in modernist classical music. The two works “Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune” (1894) and “La mer” (1905) are important milestones in the development towards a more impressionistic musical language and have also become two of Debussy’s most popular and beloved compositions.

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CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun In 1889, the centenary of the French Revolution was to be celebrated. One wonders how the conversation went in the anniversary committee: "This is the most important event in the history of civilization! The whole world must be involved! We are building a tower to heaven! Telegraph Gustave!" Sometimes it pays to aim for the stars: the Eiffel Tower was built and all the people of the world came to the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889. Industrialism and machines were celebrated in a Galerie des machines, while various indigenous peoples were exposed in the "human zoo" that fascinated Europeans in the 19th century. The 27-year-old Claude Debussy was one of the visitors among steam engines and constructed villages. He was most impressed by the gamelan orchestra from Java. This was before the era of the radio and the gramophone record and few people had heard this exotic and evocative percussion music with gongs, bells and drums accompanying dance and shadow theatre. Debussy was fascinated by the timbres and fifth-tone scales that became apparent in much of his future music. An example is Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun with its falling flute motif and ancient cymbals, crotales, which play a small but important role in the piece. These little cymbals sparkle like stars with brilliant reverberations in the shimmering orchestral chords. Debussy's 1894 orchestral piece was inspired by the poem L'après-midi d'un faune by Stéphane Mallarmé, the Symbolist poet with an unrivaled sense of linguistic nuances and timbres (he himself saw his poetry as music). That the piece was titled "prelude" is because, according to some sources, Debussy planned a three-movement suite with prelude, interlude and paraphrase finale, but only completed the prelude.


The Gothenburg Symphony, called "one of the world's most formidable orchestras" by the Guardian, has toured the USA, Europe, Japan and the Far East and performed at major music centres and festivals throughout the world. Chief conductor is Santtu-Matias Rouvali who started his tenure in 2017. Barbara Hannigan and Christoph Eschenbach are principal guest conductors since 2019. Already at the orchestra's very first years, the great Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar was appointed principal conductor, contributing strongly to the Nordic profile of the orchestra by inviting his colleagues Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius to conduct their own works. Subsequent holders of the post include Sergiu Comissiona, Sixten Ehrling and Charles Dutoit. During Neeme Järvi's tenure (1982-2004), the orchestra became a major international force. In 1997 it was appointed the National Orchestra of Sweden. During his celebrated tenure as music director (2007-2012), Gustavo Dudamel took the Orchestra to major music centres and festivals in Europe, making acclaimed appearances at BBC Proms and Vienna Musikverein. The list of prominent guest conductors has included Wilhelm Furtwängler, Pierre Monteux, Herbert von Karajan, Myung-Whun Chung, Herbert Blomstedt and Sir Simon Rattle. The orchestra also runs extensive concert projects for children, and regularly releases digital live concerts free on gsoplay.se. The orchestra has been involved in many prestigious recording projects, the latest one the complete Sibelius Symphonies with Santtu-Matias Rouvali for Alpha Classics. Earlier, the orchestra has issued over 100 recordings on BIS, Deutsche Grammophon, Chandos, Farao Classics and several other labels. The Gothenburg Symphony is owned by the Region Västra Götaland.

Eivind Gullberg Jensen is from season 2022/23 Chief Conductor of the Noord Nederlands Orkest. He is also Artistic and General Director of Bergen National Opera since 2021. An experienced conductor with an extensive repertoire range, he is recognised for his knowledgeable and insightful interpretations. Jensen has previously conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker, Münchner Philharmoniker, Hamburger Symphoniker and WDR Sinfonieorchester in Germany, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Vancouver, North Carolina and Oregon symphony orchestras in North America, and further in Europe the Royal Stockholm and Netherlands Radio philharmonic orchestras, Orchestre de Paris and Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. Over recent seasons he has worked with internationally renowned soloists such as Leif Ove Andsnes, Truls Mørk, Alice Sara Ott, Javier Perianes, Hélène Grimaud, Gautier Capuçon, Sol Gabetta, Alban Gerhardt, Hilary Hahn, Gabriela Montero, Emmanuel Pahud, Yefim Bronfman, Alexander Toradze, Vadim Repin, Viktoria Mullova, Renaud Capuçon, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Mari Eriksmoen, Charlotte Hellekant, Albert Dohmen and Guy Braunstein. Previous opera highlights include, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence with the new Simon McBurney production of The Rake’s Progress, the Wiener Staatsoper with Tosca and Rusalka, Opéra de Lille with Die Zauberflote and Der fliegende Holländer, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma with Rusalka, English National Opera with Janácek’s Jenufa, as well as Rusalka, Eugene Onegin and La Bohème (in Stefan Herheim’s production) at Den Norske Opera. Eivind Gullberg Jensen studied conducting in Stockholm with Jorma Panula, and in Vienna with Leopold Hager. Previously, he studied violin and musical theory in Trondheim, Norway.