Music History of Impressionism

  • As the nineteenth century came to a close, the fine arts entered a new era called Impressionism 
  • This period lasted only a few decades into the twentieth century (1870-1920)
  • Impressionism was seen in paintings, literature, and music
  • This period was begun by Debussy reflecting the impressionist schools of French painting and letters
  • He used new chord combinations, whole-tone chords, chromaticism, and exotic rhythms and scales   
    Important Composers of Impressionism
  • Claude Debussy (French)
  • Ottorino Respighi (Italian)
  • Erik Satie (French)
  • Paul Dukas (French) 
  • Frederick Delius (English) 
  • Karol Szymanowski (Polish)
    Musical Periods Before and After Impressionism
  • Throughout the nineteenth century artists were intent on expressing personal emotions creating The Romantic Era 
  • Using literature and storytelling led composers to create operas plus the inventions of new instruments led to the expansion of the symphony orchestra
  • By the turn of the century and for the next few decades artists were searching for exciting and different modes of expansion 
  • French composer Claude Debussy created the style of music named after the movement in French paintings called Impressionism 
  • The Impressionistic period led to The Twentieth Century where composers experimented in new ways with traditional instruments 
    Historical Context
  • Around 1870, a group of young artists abandoned the idea of realism in favor of a new movement in painting where they reproduced the impression of the movement
  • In literature, Impressionism was translated into a movement called symbolism trying to achieve fluidity
  • These basic theories of the Impressionists were also expressed in this era of music
  • The Impressionist composers used the piano and instruments in the orchestra to create their musical compositions  

Musical History