On the Role of “Significant Tonalities” (tonalités significatives) in the Compositions for Musical Theatre by Vincent d’Indy


The article explores tonal relations in the following works for musical theatre by Vincent d’Indy: the dramatic legend Le chant de la cloche and three operas — Fervaal, L’Étranger and La Légende de Saint-Christophe. According to d’Indy, one of the key compositional aspects of any musical piece is a structural principle based on repetition of tonalities with established semantics. Thus, based on the research of tonal structure of Franck’s oratorio compositions and Wagner’s musical dramas, d’Indy elaborates a special concept of significant tonalities and applies it in his works. Already in Le chant de la cloche, a certain range of tonalities can be found, which in future will acquire stable semantics in three “Wagnerian” operas. In each subsequent work, the system of tonal relations grows and becomes more complicated, which allows the composer to display the symbolic meaning of what is happening on stage with the utmost precision. In addition to the use of significant tonalities, d’Indy forms a system of tonal centres that fully reflects the dramaturgy of 
an opera. In the last “Wagnerian” opera La Légende de Saint-Christophe, along with a certain range of tonalities, various modal structures acquire significant importance. Their semantic component can be the subject of a separate study.


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