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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting [Re: pianoloverus] #1312139
11/25/09 01:21 PM
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When we see the score from the composer, we're only seeing what he or she wanted at that moment in time. Composers are creative creatures and may change their minds from day to day, and since it's their music, they can take liberties with it that is unacceptable for other performers.

Another example of this is Bartok, who is known to be very exacting about people following his score and wrote down detailed dynamics and tempo instructions. I believe he even wrote down a projected time that each piece should last. I listened to some recordings of him playing his Sonatina and he willfully ignored a lot of his own instructions and added liberal rubato all over the place. bah If I had done that, you betcha people would protest! But since he wrote it, there's nothing we can criticize...

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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: pianoloverus] #1312141
11/25/09 01:25 PM
11/25/09 01:25 PM
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If you want further comparison, here is Rachmaninoff playing a Debussy piece:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvJ35-zZa-I

And Debussy playing the same piece himself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMrdhgWR9Zk&feature=related


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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting [Re: Frozenicicles] #1312213
11/25/09 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Frozenicicles
But since he wrote it, there's nothing we can criticize...


I would say since he wrote it we can't criticize him for doing it, but we can criticize the performance for not sounding good.

Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: pianoloverus] #1312221
11/25/09 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I have only listned to Ploger's rcording of Chopin's Etude Op. 25 No.1, but I found nothing remotely extreme in tempo fluctuation or rubato.


Of course, it is a musical decision to make. To say that one should always or shouldn't ever fluctuate the tempo is to put oneself in a situation where there would always be exceptions. There's lots of rubato in her playing, rolled chords, and separation of hands. Did you listen to her Revolutionary etude (the last Chopin clip on her home page)? That one has very easily identifiable rubato.


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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: Morodiene] #1312250
11/25/09 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I have only listned to Ploger's rcording of Chopin's Etude Op. 25 No.1, but I found nothing remotely extreme in tempo fluctuation or rubato.


Of course, it is a musical decision to make. To say that one should always or shouldn't ever fluctuate the tempo is to put oneself in a situation where there would always be exceptions. There's lots of rubato in her playing, rolled chords, and separation of hands. Did you listen to her Revolutionary etude (the last Chopin clip on her home page)? That one has very easily identifiable rubato.


Her Rev. Etude certainly has rubato and hands not together, but I don't think many performers today or even the last 100 years would get far playing the piece this way. To me it just sounds bad, but obviously she doesn't feel this way. If other pianists from the 19th century played this way then the performance is historically interesting. The piano's bass sounds pretty bad also.

Here's an interesting comparison of 7 pianist playing the Butterfly Etude:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whYhO0P5DE0

Although some are extreme interpretations by today's standards, I don't think any are nearly as extreme as Debuusy's CDL(if genuine) or Ploger's Revolutionary Etude.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 11/25/09 04:50 PM.
Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: Morodiene] #1312256
11/25/09 04:44 PM
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Quote
http://www.djupdal.org/karstein/debussy/recordings.shtml doesn't include Clair de lune, nor does any other list that I can find (excluding CD promotional materials and summaries). I'd be surprised if Debussy did record it, because as I understand it he only polished up Suite Bergamasque and had the pieces published because he desperately needed the money. He didn't consider them good works. Even if Clair de lune had become a household classic across Europe by 1912 or 1913, I'm not sure that its popularity would make him want to record it for posterity. Debussy seemed like the kind of guy to record music that he thought was high quality and worth preserving in his own performance, regardless of what other people thought. (Children's Corner = music he liked and would also sell well.) Nevertheless, I'm intrigued and I look forward to listening to the link when I get home from work.


This definitely seems to be the consistent, list of official piano roll recordings that Debussy made in the 1913 Welte session, that I keep finding. For convenience, I'll list these pieces below:

Roll no. 2733

* Childrens Corner: Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
* Jimbo's Lullaby
* Serenade for the Doll
* The Snow is Dancing
* The Little Shepherd
* Golliwog's Cake Walk

Roll no. 2734

* D'un cahier d'esquisses

Roll no. 2735

* Estampes: La soirée dans Grenade

Roll no. 2736

* La plus que lente

Roll no. 2738

* Préludes I: Danseuses de Delphes
* La cathédrale engloutie
* La Danse de Puck

Roll no. 2739

* Préludes I: Minstrels
* Le vent dans la plaine

-I didn't list the 4 audio tracks of him playing accompaniment, but those always pop up as well. And I have to agree by saying that This Piano roll recording probably was not made by Debussy himself.

Quote
I think the point is regardless of whether or not it is actually Debussy, it is from that time period, in a well-accepted practice of performance for the time.


This is definitely part of the underlying point here, though.
And I'm enjoying this conversation very much, btw...

Here, though, are links to some of the other piano roll recordings that are established as being Debussy himself.(as recorded during the Welte session of 1913)

"La Cathedrale Engloutie"

"Le vent dans la plaine"

"Danseuses de Delphes"

"La plus que lente "

"Estampes: La soirée dans Grenade "

"La Danse de Puck "

(I'm tired of the "Golliwogg"..... grin )

You can probably find all the remaining ones in the "related" box by the poster.

Debussy's timing is much more metrical than we heard in the "Clair" roll. Unfortunately, I've not studied any of these other pieces. How do these compare for those of you who have?


Last edited by Fataliac; 11/25/09 04:51 PM.
Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: Fataliac] #1312285
11/25/09 05:36 PM
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La Cathedrale engloutie : By the beginning of what is the second page in the Durand edition ("peu a peu sortant de la brume"), this interpretation was almost unlistenable, although I stayed with it out of curiosity; every one of the right hand chords is broken on that page.

Similarly the return of the "organ" theme 18 measures from the end, the broken chords sound more like a strummed guitar than the organ tones (I believe) they are supposed to represent.

The composer's original recording notwithstanding, I am much more willing to accept modern approaches to this work. Much of this, I reiterate, must be due to a change in performance practice.

Regards,


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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: Fataliac] #1312325
11/25/09 06:33 PM
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@Fataliac:

I've had a chance to listen the recording now. I can't say I like it much, though in view of who I suspect is the performer, I'll cut him some slack. I'm not against "old school", "unabashedly romantic" performances, for example, I really like Paderewski's piano roll recording of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody #10. So indulgent but so good! And I mostly like Grieg playing Grieg and Rachmaninoff playing Rachmaninoff.

http://www.rprf.org/Rollography.html

According to the above, the only person ever to record Debussy's Clair de lune on the Welte-Mignon system was Cecile de Horvath. Five pianists recorded it on other types of piano rolls; in alphabetical order: George Copeland, Herbert Fryer, Walter Gieseking, Yolanda Mero, and Olga Samaroff. My guess is that the link starting off this thread is a recording by Walter Gieseking. It sounds like he might have played that way in his youth (sorry if that sounds rude, hehe), and I also notice that the works on the "Masters of the Piano Roll: Debussy plays Debussy" CD that were not (apparently) recorded by Debussy, are listed as recorded by either Gieseking or Rudolph Ganz. So maybe at some stage a mixture of Debussy, Gieseking and Ganz recordings were mistakenly attributed exclusively to Debussy?

Regarding "old school" virtues of interpretation, for me this cuts both ways. As much as I dislike dry, overly objective performances, I'd prefer to hear a deeply musical, slightly understated performance than a highly wilful one. Lenz once complained to Chopin that his performance of the variations in Beethoven's Op.26 sonata didn't have enough contrast/vigor. Chopin's response? "I say it's up to the listener to complete the picture." There are performers who draw the listener in, while others project so much, doing all the work so brashly, that listeners become no more than passive recipients. A couple of months ago I was listening to various Youtube recordings of Brahms's 2nd Piano Concerto. My goodness, what dross, for the most part! Then along came Pollini and Abbado: fresh air, poetry, magic.

While I haven't heard a wide range of Horowitz performances, I agree with pianoloverus's comments, and I've never heard Horowitz sound anything like the gushing indulgences of many historic recordings. Horowitz's 1932 recording of Liszt's Piano Sonata was/is a very modern performance, where romantic spontaneity is perfectly balanced by a clear illumination of the structure of the work. In contrast, a typical "historic" performance would likely have been an episodic mishmash leaving listeners thinking that maybe the sonata didn't hang together properly and was a failed experiment rather than a masterwork.


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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: kevinb] #1312329
11/25/09 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by kevinb
Originally Posted by Fataliac
You're right, please excuse me.... "piece," "work," or "artistic, chronologically-based tone sequence," or "Movement 3 of the Suite Bergamasque", if you prefer... (Gee, I didn't expect anyone to mince words over the term "song" in this context)grin

I'd like to state for the record that I don't find the use of the term `song' in this context objectionable. If it was good enough for Mendelssohn, it's good enough for me. There are, indeed, more important issues to worry about.

When Mendelssohn used it in the phrase "Songs Without Words," it was self-consciously figurative. It doesn't mean he used it categorically for any and all non-vocal compositions written by him or anyone else.

Steven

Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: BruceD] #1312367
11/25/09 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
La Cathedrale engloutie : By the beginning of what is the second page in the Durand edition ("peu a peu sortant de la brume"), this interpretation was almost unlistenable, although I stayed with it out of curiosity; every one of the right hand chords is broken on that page.

Similarly the return of the "organ" theme 18 measures from the end, the broken chords sound more like a strummed guitar than the organ tones (I believe) they are supposed to represent.

Bruce, if you have 2 minutes 21 seconds to spare, please watch this from beginning to end: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrvra2-7yxo

In my opinion, Debussy is not representing an organ, more a general sense of majesty, grandeur, awe, of a large, wondrous thing interacting dramatically with a large body of water. And when a large structure emerges from the sea, and when it sinks back again, there's water falling, rippling, sprinkling, not a perfect silkiness. Debussy, you beaut! You've sold me on slightly breaking those chords. I also love the yearning hesitation in the middle of bar 36.

Thanks for these links; I ought to go to bed now but I have to listen to them all now.


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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: Julian_] #1312373
11/25/09 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by SlatterFan
In my opinion, Debussy is not representing an organ, more a general sense of majesty, grandeur, awe, of a large, wondrous thing interacting dramatically with a large body of water. And when a large structure emerges from the sea, and when it sinks back again, there's water falling, rippling, sprinkling, not a perfect silkiness. Debussy, you beaut! You've sold me on slightly breaking those chords.


The rolling of the chords is a technique pianists of a certain era used on all music. I don't think it has anything to do with water.

Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: Julian_] #1312379
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Interestingly, the Welte-Mignon gives a number which I suppose is to set the roll at the right speed for the interpretation to be authentic. Mr. Caswell commented that he did not record the Debussy CDL of Mme. de Horvath because he could not get it to sound right. There could be some problem with the speed as he indicated.

One must be a somewhat lenient in judging playing from that period since more liberties were taken than is allowed now.
Frankly, some of the playing today is rather sterile and boring. The notes are correct but the individuality and passion are missing.

Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: pianoloverus] #1312383
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I have only listned to Ploger's rcording of Chopin's Etude Op. 25 No.1, but I found nothing remotely extreme in tempo fluctuation or rubato.


Of course, it is a musical decision to make. To say that one should always or shouldn't ever fluctuate the tempo is to put oneself in a situation where there would always be exceptions. There's lots of rubato in her playing, rolled chords, and separation of hands. Did you listen to her Revolutionary etude (the last Chopin clip on her home page)? That one has very easily identifiable rubato.


Her Rev. Etude certainly has rubato and hands not together, but I don't think many performers today or even the last 100 years would get far playing the piece this way. To me it just sounds bad, but obviously she doesn't feel this way. If other pianists from the 19th century played this way then the performance is historically interesting. The piano's bass sounds pretty bad also.

Here's an interesting comparison of 7 pianist playing the Butterfly Etude:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whYhO0P5DE0

Although some are extreme interpretations by today's standards, I don't think any are nearly as extreme as Debuusy's CDL(if genuine) or Ploger's Revolutionary Etude.

Given your dislike of the Debussy piano roll (performed by whomever) your opinion seems consistent. Really, there's nothing to talk about, but I wanted to point out that she performed this on a period instrument (replica).


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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: pianoloverus] #1312385
11/25/09 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by SlatterFan
In my opinion, Debussy is not representing an organ, more a general sense of majesty, grandeur, awe, of a large, wondrous thing interacting dramatically with a large body of water. And when a large structure emerges from the sea, and when it sinks back again, there's water falling, rippling, sprinkling, not a perfect silkiness. Debussy, you beaut! You've sold me on slightly breaking those chords.


The rolling of the chords is a technique pianists of a certain era used on all music. I don't think it has anything to do with water.

I almost agree with your first sentence in general, but surely Debussy followed his own path and refused to follow the conventions of his era? That has always been my impression of him based on his written opinions and compositions, and now his recordings. Where are the rolled chords in Danseuses de Delphes, that "pianists of a certain era used on all music"? There are absolutely none in Debussy's recording. In La cathédrale engloutie, where are the rolled chords where the cathedral is above the surface (bars 28-40)? Nowhere; only when the cathedral is rising or sinking are chords broken. I can sometimes over-analyse things, but I honestly don't think I'm doing that here. There are specific things in these recordings that are strengthening my view of Debussy as a meticulous craftsman where very little is unplanned, or the product of tradition or the trends of the time.


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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: Fataliac] #1312400
11/25/09 08:23 PM
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@Fataliac: Many thanks; I've just finished listening to all the recordings. Fascinating stuff! With pieces like Le vent dans la pleine and La danse de Puck, while I enjoyed hearing the composer's take on them, I prefer Gieseking's recordings (1953, EMI, very good quality mono). Thanks to a direct comparison, I can hear how Gieseking's more sparing use of the pedal in Le vent dans la pleine succeeds in making the atmosphere more windy and vivid. The wind shifting direction in the grasses and intensifying just doesn't quite work the same when there's too much pedal. I think if Debussy had heard Gieseking play some of these pieces, he might have been impressed and a bit humbled. smile


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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: Julian_] #1312402
11/25/09 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by SlatterFan
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by SlatterFan
In my opinion, Debussy is not representing an organ, more a general sense of majesty, grandeur, awe, of a large, wondrous thing interacting dramatically with a large body of water. And when a large structure emerges from the sea, and when it sinks back again, there's water falling, rippling, sprinkling, not a perfect silkiness. Debussy, you beaut! You've sold me on slightly breaking those chords.


The rolling of the chords is a technique pianists of a certain era used on all music. I don't think it has anything to do with water.

I almost agree with your first sentence in general, but surely Debussy followed his own path and refused to follow the conventions of his era? That has always been my impression of him based on his written opinions and compositions, and now his recordings. Where are the rolled chords in Danseuses de Delphes, that "pianists of a certain era used on all music"? There are absolutely none in Debussy's recording. In La cathédrale engloutie, where are the rolled chords where the cathedral is above the surface (bars 28-40)? Nowhere; only when the cathedral is rising or sinking are chords broken. I can sometimes over-analyse things, but I honestly don't think I'm doing that here. There are specific things in these recordings that are strengthening my view of Debussy as a meticulous craftsman where very little is unplanned, or the product of tradition or the trends of the time.


Debussy followed his own compositional path...not the same as his own path in terms of playing the piano. "Used on all music" meaning music of all eras or at least starting on music of the Romantic era...not the same as on every composition(it's up to the player judgement when to roll chords) to the same extent or equally throughout a given composition.

If rolling the chords was representing water, then it would mean that when Debussy wasn't representing water he wouldn't roll chords. I think some of the chords in Evening in Grananda were rolled.

Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: pianoloverus] #1312407
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I agree with pianoloverus here. Composing and performing are two different things. Some great composers were also great performers, but not always. And simply because Debussy shirked a lot of compositional customs - "parallel 4ths and 5ths? Sacrilege!" - does not mean he also shirked the performance practices of the time. I think the likeness to water is a superimposed observation.


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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: Julian_] #1312432
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I have a number of Debussy attributed recordings using Welte-Mignon piano. He certainly is documented not only to have used Welte-Mignon, but found the experience agreeable. His great adversery Saint Saens did not [from memory] although I have a Saint Saens recording of Chopin's F minor nocturne and not only is his technique is right up with the great Prokofiev and Rachmaninov, but there is nothing wrong with the recording.

Debussy on the other hand sounds 2nd rate in comparison. He loused up a performance of La Plus De Lente and to my annoyance many performers have tried to mimmick his glaring errors "in the spirit of Debussy". This is taking nothing away from his compositions (some are amongst my all time favourite piano works), but he should have followed Schubert's lead as a performer in my opinion.


You play it & I'll hum it, but currently rehearsing:

Bach WTC book 2 no 15 G major, no 20 A minor, no 22 Bb Minor
Mozart A minor Sonata K310
Mendelssohn Op 35 preludes and fuges
Busoni Carmen Fantasy
Rachmaninov Bb prelude OP 23 no 2
Lyapunov Humoreske Op 34
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Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: pianoloverus] #1312894
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
The rolling of the chords is a technique pianists of a certain era used on all music. I don't think it has anything to do with water.

If rolling the chords was representing water, then it would mean that when Debussy wasn't representing water he wouldn't roll chords. I think some of the chords in Evening in Grananda were rolled.

The only chords that Debussy breaks in his performance of Soirée dans Grenade are indicated in the score. It is clear from these piano roll recordings that Debussy does not fit remotely into the turn-of-the-century mold of rolling lots of chords (and playing the left hand ahead of the right hand too). One distinct exception shows up in these recordings, and that's the slight rolling of chords in the right hand in La Cathédrale engloutie, but only when the cathedral is rising and falling, not when it is above the surface. I didn't mean to suggest that the rolling chords were directly representing water, more that the rolled chords seem appropriate to the atmosphere, which in this case includes water but one could just as well say "shimmering" or "glistening" or whatever.

Also, just in case anyone resented the clip from Atlantis and thought, "Who the heck is this guy?!", it isn't my aim to try to impose a specific view of the piece, either, I was merely trying to express my strong support of Debussy's interpretations on two main counts: a) They're the product of an immensely original musician and owe barely anything to whatever performance habits/trends were going on at the time; b) To me, there's a completely natural reason for Debussy to roll the chords that he did.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Debussy followed his own compositional path...not the same as his own path in terms of playing the piano. "Used on all music" meaning music of all eras or at least starting on music of the Romantic era...not the same as on every composition(it's up to the player judgement when to roll chords) to the same extent or equally throughout a given composition.

Debussy wrote and spoke very extensively on the interpretation of piano music, including and especially his own. His views are suffused with keen insight, sensitivity, and a desire for his music to sound a certain way (including not only his piano works but also his orchestral music, the relationship between voice and accompaniment in songs, and what his aim was in writing the recitative of his opera the way he did). There are dozens of books filled with Debussy's views, both directly in his own words and related by students, musicians, and friends. Like Chopin, Debussy had thoughts of writing a treatise on piano performance but never completed one. Here's a website to jump into, with a sample of interesting quotes. The website has a good list of references too:

http://www.djupdal.org/karstein/debussy/method/m01.shtml

Debussy, in a letter: "One is often betrayed by so-called pianists! I mean it - I can't tell you the extent to which my piano music has been deformed; so much so that often I have a job to recognize it!"

George Copeland: "When I asked him why so few people were able to play his music, Debussy replied, after some reflection: 'I think it is because they try to impose themselves upon the music. It is necessary to abandon yourself completely, and let the music do as it will with you - to be a vessel through which it passes."

Debussy, in a letter to Sylvain Bonmariage: "So you really think a poem has only one meaning! Aren't you aware that each one of your poems is transformed by each of its readers? And it's the same with every musical score. You only have to listen to experts talking about them. You write poems as you like. We can draw from them the music that we like. And the listener, or reader, finds in them the charm that he likes. Everything is relative."

George Copeland: "The piano [...] was draped with a silk scarf held in place by a heavy cloisonné vase. I asked permission to move the vase, so that I might open the piano cover. 'Absolument non!' he replied with obvious annoyance. 'Do not touch it! I never permit that anyone should open my piano. As it is, everyone plays my music too loud.'"

Maurice Dumesnil: "At the crescendo leading to the climax, marked ff, he stopped at my side: 'Please do not overdo this crescendo. It sounds too dramatic; start more softly and you will reach the same effect without impairing the quality of your tone.'"

Maurice Dumesnil: "Remembering his previous remarks about dramatizing, I tried to keep the middle part [of Clair de lune] moderate. But I guess I still overdid it: 'No,' he said, 'you exaggerate both the crescendo and the rubato. The latter must be done within the entire phrase, never on a single beat.' And the expression had to remain dignified."

Maurice Dumesnil: "Also in Clair de lune it was important that the triplets were strictly in tempo, 'but within a general flexibility'."

Debussy, related by Maurice Dumesnil: "In those first bars I would like the right hand slightly more prominent than the left hand. Octaves sound flat when played with the same tone volume in both hands."

Maurice Dumesnil: "Debussy often thought in terms of orchestration. Concerning the second section of 'Clair de lune', he said, 'The left-hand arpeggios should be fluid, mellow, drowned in pedal, as if played by a harp on a background of strings.' But he did not tolerate any confusion and insisted on the purity of each harmonic pattern."

Debussy, related by Marguerite Long: "'The fifth finger of virtuosi, what a pest it is!' What he meant by that is that too often one hammers the melody without attaching sufficient importance to the whole harmony; harmony that, according to him, should never be sacrificed to the melodic idea."


(Used to post as SlatterFan)
Re: Debussy Piano Roll of Claire De Lune. Very interesting!! [Re: Julian_] #1312899
11/26/09 07:08 PM
11/26/09 07:08 PM
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babama  Offline
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Joined: Feb 2008
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Thanks! This is just as fascinating as Scriabin playing his 8/12 etude. In both cases I like the free and unique style of playing.
I find the music suitable to be played like this. Less precisely structured and timed makes it a more organic whole.

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