Debussy L’Isle Joyeuse (“The Happy Island”) was written in 1904 on the island of Jersey, where he had eloped with Emma Bardac, who later became his wife. Debussy’s inspiration for this piece was taken from the painting L’Embarquement pour Cythère by Jean-Antoine Watteau. Cythera, according to legend, is the birthplace of the Venus, the goddess of love.
It is an energetic piece, ending, as the notes of one pianist describes it, with “wild excitement and pandemonium, with a final tremolando and a flourish, fortississimo, as the right hand jumps over the left hand to land on the lowest note of the piano. Note to self — do get it right.”
Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse, performed at Steinert Hall in Boston on November 22nd, 2014