In 1915, amidst the gloom and despair of war, Claude Debussy launched plans to create a series of six sonatas. Three of these were realised: the Violin Sonata and the Cello Sonata, and another for the quite original combination of Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp.
Debussy – ‘Claude de France’, he declared himself, patriotically – also outlined plans for three other sonatas: one for the curious Baroque-like combination of oboe, horn and harpsichord, another for a more dance-hall combination of trumpet, clarinet, bassoon and piano (think Darius Milhaud). The last would be a kind of ‘concerto’ for 12 instruments, not quite a decade before Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto.
Various composers have attempted to complete Debussy’s set, notably the late George Crumb and the Australian composer Lyle Chan (2018).
It is the third sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp that has resonated most remarkably over the past century. Spawned by the unique combination of Debussy’s sonata, various trio ensembles have cropped up over the world. In Sydney, three musicians...