L’isle joyeuse (arr Volans)

From Wind Repertory Project
Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy (trans. Kevin Volans)

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General Info

Year: 1904 / 1995
Duration: c. 6:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Piano
Publisher: Chester Music, through Wise Music Classical
Cost: Score and Parts - Rental


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion I-II

(percussion detail desired)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Considering the piano music of Debussy (1862-1918), L'isle joyeuse (The Isle of Joy) is in the larger scale, needing virtuosity to perform. It was composed in 1904, between Estampes (1903) and Images (1905-07). While Debussy's style is often more subdued, this piece is joyous and colorful with a grandiose climax.

Debussy was inspired by The Embarkation for Cythera of Watteau, French Rococo painter of the 18th century, and so titled the piece. The island of Cythera had a shrine of Aphrodite (Venus) that lovers eagerly visited in ancient days. In fact, Watteau's picture is considered to depict the debarkation from Cythera, because the lovers are on the island, ready to leave.

- Program Note from Bravo Music

The island in question is the British island of Jersey (note Debussy’s British spelling of the French “l’île"). How that title came to be associated with this piece is the result of great love and great scandal. In 1904 Debussy was in the tenth year of his relationship with his lover “Gabby with the green eyes”. It was also the year in which he met and fell madly for Emma Bardac, the wife of a banker and paramour of many Parisian artists. Debussy and Emma made their way to Jersey that summer where they reveled in each other’s company and made it their own joyous island.

L’isle Joyeuse first was intended as one of the three parts making up a tryptich for solo piano, a collection which was never made by his publisher. (The same publisher, it could pruriently be noted, that was instructed by Debussy to let no-one – especially Debussy’s family – know that he was trysting on Jersey.) It should be noted, though, that in spite of this spicy story which has grown up around the composition, Debussy had in fact begun the piece before that summer trip; his original ideas had been inspired by Watteau’s painting of Cythera, the mythical island of love.

Kevin Volans, a South African composer with a great original voice, transcribed this work for the Netherlands Wind Ensemble.

- Program Note from New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble concert program, 6 October 2022


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • New England Conservatory (Boston, Mass.) Wind Ensemble (Minchao Cai, conductor)

Works for Winds by this Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Debussy, C.; Volans, K. (1995). L'Isle joyeuse [score]. Chester Music: London.