Contrasting Debussy and Ravel: A stylistic analysis of selected piano works and "Ondine"
Brandt, Anthony K.
Doctor of Musical Arts
Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel were the two most important and influential French composers of the early 20th century. They shared similar backgrounds and influences as both resided in Paris during an epoch of rich cultural confluence. As a result, they are often categorized together as "Impressionist" composers. However, a closer examination of their music shows that their works actually have very distinctive characteristics. The purpose of this study is to investigate the differences between Debussy's and Ravel's compositional styles. This will be done in two parts. The first part will focus on the composers' common background as well as influences they had on each other. Each composer was at times accused of stealing or borrowing from the other. The works that gave rise to these controversies will be introduced, and superficial similarities will be highlighted. Then, a comparative analysis of these same works will be offered, illustrating how they in fact show very distinct styles from a structural point of view. Differences in compositional approach by Debussy and Ravel will be elaborated on in the second part of the study, a comparative analysis of their piano works based on the same material, namely the Ondine legend. A detailed stylistic analysis of the two works shows how differently each composer approached the same subject. By comparing and contrasting two works with identical titles based on the same inspirational source, each composer's unique compositional style will be further illuminated.