The one simple chord that shows Claude Debussy was a harmonic genius

22 August 2016, 17:14

There's a moment of pure harmonic inspiration in the composer's Clair de lune. And it's so, so simple.

Debussy’s music has that ineffable *something* that makes listening to it a bit like this:

In technical terms, it’s all about using chord extensions like 7th, 9th and 11th chords. And the result was a sound unlike any other in musical history.

This chord at the very end of Clair de lune (part of his Suite bergamasque) is one of the most breath-taking examples.

The spread chord that he uses to end this famous piece is missing the top tonic (D flat, in this case) note:

Debussy Clair de lune final chord

And that’s it. It’s so simple but the effect is to leave you sort of feeling like this…

Here’s the brilliant Katia Buniatishvili playing the whole piece – and listen to that final sequence starting at 4.50…

Classic FM Apps

Get the Classic FM app for iPhone, iPad and Android - now with HD audio

rune brodahl horn player

Joyous: this horn player absolutely lets rip during a ballet performance

Backstreet Boys in the style of Bach

The Backstreet Boys' 'I Want It That Way' in the style of a Bach Allemande

Sunshine

Quiz: Answer these questions and we'll tell you what your ultimate summer banger is