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Two Debussy "Yver" questions

We are preparing Debussy's Trois Chanson and we've run across some discrepencies:
1.  Is it an E or a D# in m. 42, b. 2 in the soprano?
2.  TEXT question.  
Based on numerous recordings, I suspect that "deust" should be  [dœ] but my IPA source says [dwa].  What do the ChoralNet experts say?
Replies (13): Threaded | Chronological
on March 13, 2014 4:01pm
On the second question, I think deust is the equivalent of modern French dût, which is the imperfect subjunctive of devoir. I would therefore pronounce it [dy].
Applauded by an audience of 2
on March 15, 2014 2:32pm
Hello Stephen,
You are absolutely right about the modern version. This is exactly how it should be pronounced.
The "eust" is an old ending of the verb at the third person singular. We still have, in French, the same graphic ending for the conjugation of the verb "have" for simple past (eus, eut, eûmes, eûtes, eurent) and for the past participle (eu). Therefore, it is correct to pronounce it [dy] but not necessarily because of its modern French "translation", but because of the way it was pronounced at that time. In this case, it happens to be the same, but in many cases, the modern and old French have different pronounciation. 
So right on, but with a slightly different reason! :)
on March 14, 2014 5:06am
You should know, but you forgot about it:
For such questions, do not use IPA, but use MUSICA (
Search for Debussy and Yver, and you will find there the correct pronunciation as a sound file, recorded by a professor of old French of the University of Strasbourg ... and he is even a choral conductor !   Musica does not hesitate to take the most reliable references...
Kind regards,
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 14, 2014 5:23am
...and it is a D sharp... of course...
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 14, 2014 6:54am
Phew! The Strasburg professor agrees with me :-)
on March 15, 2014 7:40am
Thanks so much for pointing me to Musica.  I visit it frequently, as I'm sure you know.
However, recordings aren't the only way to go!  The IPA system works very well for basic formation of the French vowels and serves as a visual guide to the sounds that need to be made.  Have you ever thought of adding that feature to the most frequently investigated/performed works on the database?
I've never had that idea until now.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 15, 2014 2:04pm
I agree with you Philip... By the way,i f you have any further questions regarding French pronuncitation, feel free to ask... As a French Canadian, I could be of some help! :) By the way, I am also preparing the Trois chansons de Charles d'Orléans with my choir: never thought they'd be so difficult!
on March 17, 2014 6:06am
Thanks Philip for your suggestion.
I however persist on my belief that hearing a French person pronouncing French is the best way to get the correct pronunciation. I have heard so many use of IPA in which, as a result, the "English accent" remains predominant at a point that a French would not even understand. A correct voice example cannot be overpassed. I am sure that if you have a French native in your choir, you would prefer his example to an IPA interpretation...
To be comprehensive, Musica has contributed, with the CNRS and the University, to the design of a software for hyperarticulation for exophones in vocal synthesis, in French and in English (Kali). Thus any title in Musica that has a French or an English text linked to it, but not a pronunciation sound file, will have a correct pronunciation synthesized by this software. I don't like it (it needs some improvement to be less boring) and I like much better a real human doing the pronunciation, but for sure the pronunciation is not deformed by any foreign accent. Actually, the database of diphones allowing the vocal synthesis in French has been build by using the voice of the same University professor of "Yver", and the database of diphones in English has been build with a British singer in my choir, interpreter at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
This said, a visual guide can be useful. If giving a link to a sound file with correct pronunciation to your singers is not sufficient, one can give the IPA of a given vowel during the rehearsal :-) 
Best regards,
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 14, 2014 5:41am
Your second image is from the original Durand edition, 1908-1910. I have copies of all three songs, and
my choral groups performed from them some years ago. (A very respectable recording has survived from
a concert in Cambridge MA in 1979). I'm sure the D# is correct.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 17, 2014 12:53pm
This thread (pronunciation and notes of Debussy's Trois Chanson) is EXACTLY what I was asking today.  This is what I needed to know today before I went to rehearsal.   Another reason why the service is so valuable to us all.   My questions answered, my time saved, and I had the pleasure of learning from my colleagues.   Yay for Choralnet!   
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 17, 2014 1:40pm
Philip, Guillaume, and Jean (and anyone else): I have performed Trois Chansons as a tenor and as a conductor several times, always using "modern" French, but found the old French text to be puzzling, and suspected that there was more research needed. What would Debussy have had in mind? I am aware that pronunciation has changed from the time of Charles d'Orleans (a good example is the word "Roi"). I wonder if anyone has ever performed the Debussy in "old French?" How did it work? 
on March 18, 2014 6:27am
someone suggested to me that Eric Ericson's recording might have some of this old French:
on April 7, 2014 1:09pm
It is hard to do so and be perfectly sure of the pronunciation...
The major problem with puritan historic linguistic is that we don’t have modern pronunciation guides for ancient French, or they aren’t easily accessible on the web. It will be very hard to find a specialist of ancient French pronunciation. I think we would have a similar problem with any language. I’m sure you came across words like that in English or other languages.
I believe we should always make sure we understand the text and the words, even if they don’t exist anymore. If I had to do Janequin for example, I would clearly use modern French pronunciation. The syntax, the words and the grammar would be enough for the “historical” background.
French is already a hard language to sing and if I had to teach this music to people who don’t speak French, I would not put too much energy towards historical pronunciation for the following reasons:
  • difficulty to teach the choir the correct sound (French sang by non-francophones always sounds a bit funny when listened by francophone);
  • the lack of specific resources in French historical pronunciation;
  • no real added value considering the fact that the language have changed quite a lot since and the added complexity for teaching;
  • even francophones need to take time to understand the correct words and the poetry!
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