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#2157212 - 09/25/13 01:49 AM Debussy etudes - thirds, octaves and 8 fingers
fnork Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 2070
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Recorded dead tired after a long practicing day:


octaves + 8 fingers (I like to do them quasi attaca, so, put them in one file):


#2158330 - 09/26/13 11:29 PM Re: Debussy etudes - thirds, octaves and 8 fingers [Re: fnork]
Dwscamel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 623
I love your playing; I'm surprised you manage to post so much around here with all the practicing and playing you do.

I don't listen to Debussy much and I actually hadn't heard any of these before, but your control in the thirds etude is fantastic. Funnily enough, in my beginner etudes (Bergmuller), I got stuck on one the first one in thirds (I think no.5 or 6).

I found the very last piece to be more musically interesting than the octaves one, and the little high note at the end was super charming. But that's probably less your fault and more Debussy's :P.

Was this recorded on an acoustic piano?
Beethoven - Op.49 No.1 (sonata 19)
Czerny - Op.299 Nos. 5,7 (School of Velocity)
Liszt - S.172 No.2 (Consolation No.2)

Dream piece:
Rachmaninoff - Sonata 2, movement 2 in E minor

#2158416 - 09/27/13 05:13 AM Re: Debussy etudes - thirds, octaves and 8 fingers [Re: fnork]
fnork Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 2070
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Recorded on a Fazioli grand - huge, solid instrument, nice sonorities, though I generally am not a huge Fazioli freak. Thanks for the comments - these three are the most difficult from book 1, for me, the thirds being the most complicated. The octaves is a fantastic joyous outburst but hardly ever comes across as an overly convincing piece still, it's very strange. Some passages are nearly unplayable. I love the last note of the final study, and the buildup to it!

#2158714 - 09/27/13 05:38 PM Re: Debussy etudes - thirds, octaves and 8 fingers [Re: fnork]
Tim Adrianson Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/10
Posts: 1577
Hi, fnork! Great playing, as always! I was particularly intrigued by your handling of the Etude for Thirds -- like several other of these Etudes, I've found it difficult to make sense of them musically. In Debussy's last period, devoted to abstract works, rather than the literary and poetic soundscapes for which he's much better known, it almost seems to me like he's deliberately confounding our expectations of how music should flow. The celebratory joyfulness of the Octave Etude, for example, ends so abruptly that it has a slightly ludicrous effect. In the Thirds Etude, I thought you did a good job setting up the finishing passionate flourish, which again never seemed to me to flow naturally from the body of the piece. The other example I was thinking of was the conclusion of the Violin Sonata, which to my ear is three separate conclusions -- which do you like the best? Apart from the obvious technical difficulty, I believe these Etudes have been on the fringe of the repertory because they are strange nuts to crack musically. I believe Paul Jacobs was the first to make a case for them here in the US, but that was not until the early 1980's. What is the present "conventional wisdom" regarding Debussy's last works?

#2159098 - 09/28/13 02:23 PM Re: Debussy etudes - thirds, octaves and 8 fingers [Re: Tim Adrianson]
fnork Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 2070
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
thanks for the interesting comments. there is much to say about the etudes, and I can't cover all of that here - the first complete recording was in the 30's by a little-known pianist (the teacher of Anton Nel, actually, forget the name, he was from South Africa), has charming moments I recall (only listened to a few bits) but is - as can be expected for a large newly-written demanding cycle of pieces with no 'performance tradition' - sloppy to a great extent. Later (in the 50's..?), Charles Rosen recorded them, and Gieseking was asked to do it as well, perhaps due to the fact that there were so few complete recordings around. A well-known composer, but completely unrecorded and underperformed stuff. The Gieseking set is mostly horrible, IMO - he learned the set in one week, the record producer didn't do a good editing job (because it would've been possible to fix a lot of wrong notes and misreadings by doing more takes, etc) and the messiness and wrong notes were covered up by extensive reverb.

Then for a long time there was a general idea of them that they were overly dry and intellectual pieces, with little musical substance. One dean and president at Juilliard (Ernest Hutcheson, and this was ages ago) was a pianist and wrote the following about Debussy's etudes in a book on piano repertoire: “The twelve Etudes, Debussy’s last works for piano, are sadly disappointing. No student resorts to them for technical profit and few players seek repertory material in them. They deal with patterns of five and eight-finger exercises, thirds, fourths, sixths, octaves, chromatics, ornaments, arpeggios, and chords.” He proceeds to write some more silly things - seems he really didn't bother looking into the pieces much.

But what happened was that Messiaen started analysing the etudes in his famous classes at the Paris conservatory - I guess from the late 40's and onwards, bringing them to the attention of the young PIerre Boulez and others. Yvonne Loriod played the etudes better than anybody else I've heard so far - the LP is out of print.

I dont know THAT many complete sets, but quite many I hear just don't grasp the music. They're often played too drily for my taste - I also use pedal sparingly, but that's not what I mean, I mean that they're played without heart and soul. Uchida has great technical facilities at times, but COMPLETELY rushes the thirds study (originally, tempo indication was planned to be Grave...) and the piece loses its meaning. The octaves sound Brahmsian and heavy, ditto for her pour les accords...Yvonne Loriod all the way, that's one to listen to. You can hear her play one of the etudes in this article:


#2159581 - 09/29/13 10:49 AM Re: Debussy etudes - thirds, octaves and 8 fingers [Re: fnork]
Michael Sayers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 2333
Loc: Stockholms län, Sverige
I enjoyed listening!

And thanks for some background on the Debussy etudes - it is surprising that anyone has ever considered them to be "sadly disappointing"!



#2159891 - 09/30/13 01:46 AM Re: Debussy etudes - thirds, octaves and 8 fingers [Re: fnork]
fnork Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 2070
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Thanks for listening! Yes, I agree, but in fact it seems like a general opinion almost, considering how little they were played and recorded back then...And like Paul Roberts points out in his book on Debussy, it's one of D's most perfect ironies that spending his entire compositional career writing pieces with poetic titles (whether placed at the end of pieces or in the beginning of them), he finishes off his career writing etudes for piano and sonatas for various instruments. Perhaps it's more tempting to learn a piece with a fancy title than "etude nr x"? In any case, the day before yesterday I made a joke after the concert apologizing the audience for playing these dry and intellectual pieces, and played for them another one right after. Everyone seemed in good spirits by the music.


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