Reflets dans l'eau

Claude Debussy's Reflets dans l'eau ("Reflections in the Water") is the first of three piano pieces from his first volume of Images, which are frequently performed separately. It was written in 1905. As with much of Debussy's work, it is referred to as Impressionistic, meaning that it expresses emotions and senses by making use of non-functional harmony and ambiguous key signatures, its tonality being mainly non-diatonic and usually having a sense of modality.

Musical analysis

Reflets dans l'eau opens in a slow tempo (andantino molto) with a melody of A, F, E (which is repeated through much of the piece) while the right hand is playing a set of chords to accompany the melody. It shares the main characteristics of French music of this period, similar to works by Ravel such as Jeux d'eau. For instance, the piece is characterized by ambiguous and fast-changing harmonies.

The piece has several brief melody statements and climaxes that are more glimpses of music than full ideas, which is typical of Debussy's middle and late piano works. By writing "images", Debussy was intending to depict a scene rather than create linear musical progression. This is one of the many pieces Debussy wrote about water; in particular, light reflecting off its surface, and ripples in the water moving outwards. The piece creates an image of water being not quite still, then becoming rapid, then decreasing in motion again. Reflets dans l'eau is also an example of the new tone colors Debussy discovered for the piano in this part of his life, and although he later refined this style, this piece is part of the greater achievements Debussy reached with the instrument.