Ode à la France (Orchestré par M.F. Gaillaird)
Ode à la France L. 149/141
Cantata for soprano, choir, and orchestra
(1916-17, completed by Marius-François Gaillard, 1927-28)
(b. Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 22 August 1862 – d. Paris, 25 March 1918)
Claude Debussy is not commonly associated with cantatas or choral music, nor will many relate the title Ode à la France to the French composer, one of the most outstanding of the early twentieth century. This is not surprising, because none of Debussy’s choral works belong to the standard repertory, although he wrote several cantatas and songs involving soloists and/or choir, and because the Ode was one of Debussy‘s last works, an unfinished cantata for soprano, mixed choir and orchestra.
Several circumstances account for Debussy‘s leaving his composition incompleted. Throughout his life, Debussy was plagued by financial difficulties. By consequence, Debussy saw himself obliged to take on many engagements for compositions and concert performances as a pianist and conductor, which made the years 1915-18 very busy. Furthermore, his high workload was not supported by good health. On the contrary, Debussy had been diagnosed with cancer in 1909, and had to undergo a major operation in December 1915. Moreover, the First World War troubled his peace of mind, although Debussy had never been much of a political or a nationalistic composer. As his friend, the poet Louis Laloy, observed, Debussy ‘was a faithful Frenchman, but it took the war to realize this‘ (‘Debussy était bon français, mais