Music of the Impressionist Period

10:00 - 11:30 am Wednesdays from 10 November 2021 (4 weeks), online via Zoom

Monet: Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge, 1899

The period from around 1880 to 1920, sometimes described as Impressionism, elicited some of the most beautiful and bewitching compositions of western music history. Composers such as Sibelius, Elgar, Mahler, Debussy and Ravel gave the world exotic and rich new sounds, in the last moments before many composers abandoned ‘normal’ music and went atonal. This study day examines the music of this period in its historical and social context. No musical knowledge is necessary.

How to enrol

Course Outline

Session 1

  • The turn of the twentieth century: a fascinating period of history
  • What is Impressionism? What is Impressionism in music?
  • Social, cultural and historical background: Europe, 1880-1920
  • The art of the Impressionist period: we look at art and architecture of the period, and see parallel tastes in art and music

Session 2

  • Musical genres of the Impressionist period: experiments in genre
  • Compositional techniques: what Impressionist composers were trying to achieve, and how they achieved it
  • Musical characteristics: what to listen for, and how to get more out of Impressionist music
  • Contrasting composers: Puccini, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Vaughan Williams, Satie, Rakhmaninov

Session 3

  • Song in the Impressionist period: Mahler and Richard Strauss
  • Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
  • Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs
  • Opera in the Impressionist period
  • Puccini’s Madama Butterfly

Session 2

  • The Symphony in the Impressionist period
  • The symphonies of Mahler, Rakhmaninov, Elgar and Vaughan Williams
  • The Concerto in the Impressionist period
  • Elgar: Cello Concerto
  • Rakhmaninov’s piano concertos
  • Sibelius: Violin Concerto
  • Piano music of the Impressionist period
  • Debussy: Clair de Lune
  • Satie’s Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes
  • The piano music of Ravel

How to Enrol

Next class: 10 November - 1 December 2021
Wednesday mornings 10:00 - 11:30 am
4 weeks
Online via Zoom, through Susan Deas Music
$125.50 inc GST
Enrol now button

Enrolments close Monday 8 November 2021
Book cover, Music of the Impressionist Period

Buy the course notes for this class

In hard copy book form, through Lulu Press
$18 + postage

A digital copy of these notes will be provided free with enrolment.


“Like all Susan’s courses, this course has been excellent. Her presentation and notes are all excellent; the knowledge she imparts is presented so clearly and in a knowledgeable fashion”

“Susan is excellent in the depth of her knowledge and communication/ presentation skills - a wonderful day and positive learning experience”

“Tutor is excellent with very good preparation and hand-outs. I found the whole day informative and stimulating. I would very much like to do another course led by Susan. Her analysis of certain pieces was most interesting and helpful”

“Susan makes the courses extremely interesting and knows her subject very well.”

“Susan is an excellent music teacher which is assisted by her ability as a piano player”

“A very comprehensive course. Susan is an intersting, informative teacher and very easy to listen to. The music used was delightful”

About Susan Deas

Susan Deas is a professional musician, lecturer and teacher. She has been teaching music appreciation courses for more than twenty years, through Sydney University's Centre for Continuing Education, WEA Sydney and at other venues. Her training includes a Bachelor of Music with a major in Performance (Piano) and Musicology, a Master of Music Studies (Studio Pedagogy), a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), and an A.Mus.A in Musicianship. Susan teaches piano and music theory to adults and children, and plays piano and organ at various venues around Sydney. Susan is an accredited piano teacher and musicianship teacher, and is on the Council of the Music Teachers’ Association of NSW.

More about Susan’s qualifications

Read what people have said about Susan’s other courses

Susan’s other music courses