In 1928 Debussy's Ode àà la France was premiered at a gala commemorating the tenth anniversary of the composer's death. Unfinished in 1918, this patriotic cantata for soprano, chorus, and orchestra was intended to dramatize the execution of Joan of Arc using a libretto written by Debussy's friend, the music scholar Louis Laloy. Initially thought to be lost, the manuscript was later rediscovered by the composer's widow, Emma, who joined Laloy in contracting the pianist-composer Marius-Franççois Gaillard to complete the work.
Prior to the concert, a committee of Debussy's friends published a letter of protest, dissociating itself from the premiere, and Emma Debussy immediately responded with a protest of her own, defending her involvement in the concert. With additional contributions from Lééon Vallas, Emile Vuillermoz, and Louis Laloy, the conflict that thus emerged had the result of permanently affecting our understanding of the concert's featured work, the Ode àà la France. By comparing the manuscript with the score published by Choudens (1928), it is possible to gain a better understanding of how Debussy's original conception of the Ode and its place in his oeuvre differed from that of Laloy, Gaillard, and others involved in the controversies surrounding the work's premiere.
- ©© 2010 by the Virginia Allan Detloff Library, C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco