Prelude X ... La Cathédrale engloutie, Claude Debussy
José Rodríguez Alvira
The prelude La Cathédrale engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral) is inspired by a myth:
"This piece is based on an ancient Breton myth in which a cathedral, submerged underwater off the coast of the Island of Ys, rises up from the sea on clear mornings when the water is transparent. Sounds can be heard of priests chanting, bells chiming, and the organ playing, from across the sea."
Hutcheson, Ernst, The Literature of the Piano (New York: Knopf, 1981), 314
Debussy begins with a series of chords using fourths and fifths (A). The left hand in a low register, far apart from the right hand in a high register. This separation gives a particular color to these chords. Imitation of the organ of which the myth speaks?
The chords of the left-hand go down by degrees (G-F-E), the right-hand holds the notes D-G-D.
Above these chords appears a melodic motif (B) doubled by fourths and fifths.