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Debussy - Clair de Lune #2848938
05/16/19 06:05 PM
05/16/19 06:05 PM
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PianoYos Offline OP
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I recorded this yesterday on a whim. Comments and criticisms welcome.

I've noticed while re-reading the score and listening to this that I am way too liberal with my tempo in the beginning of the piece to the point of it becoming 4/4. I know I miss some notes and rush a few places too, so I'll be working to fix that too.

Any other suggestions would be appreciated.


Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2848956
05/16/19 06:49 PM
05/16/19 06:49 PM
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There is certainly a problem with the timing in the very opening of this piece, a problem which you repeat throughout when the same idea recurs.

You should start by counting an even nine beats per measure. In the second measure, in the right hand, the first chord (on beat 1) is tied to the preceding chord, but the next two chords in the right hand come on beats 2 and 3. You are grossly exaggerating the length of the third beat so that the sense of timing and movement is completely lost. You should be counting in a steady nine beats to the measure, so that the fourth chord in the measure comes on beat 4.

You repeat the same timing error in measure 4 and again in measures 10 and 12. You do get this right when it comes to measures 52 and 54 because there you have the left hand sixteenth-notes controlling the rhythm. But then, left hand notwithstanding, you repeat the error in measure 56.

You are also failing to observe the change from triplet to duplet in measure 3; the upper F in the right hand comes too soon. Are you playing another B-flat under that F? There isn't one in the score; the F stands alone while the B-flat is tied.

In measure 8-9, the A-flat in the left hand of measure 8 is tied to the A-flat in measure 9; it is not repeated; the D-flat in measure 10 sounds alone while the A-flat is held. I hear you playing both the A-flat and D-flat together on the first beat of measure 9.

You are playing a chord on the last note in the right hand in measure 13; it's an F octave, no chord.

Your timing is rushed in measures 25 and 26; the first chord of each measure gets six full beats.

You managed to insert an extra beat into measure 33, but perhaps you were just correcting a perceived error at that point.

No chord on the first beat, left hand, of measure 59; the A-flat is held from the previous measure and only the D-flat is played.

What I strongly urge you to do is to get out the score and work out these timing issues and some of your misreadings (chords where there are none) very carefully because they are marring would could otherwise be a performance that has good potential.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2848961
05/16/19 07:06 PM
05/16/19 07:06 PM
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Wow, thank you so much for your detailed feedback!

I've gotten out the score and marked each of the criticisms you've made, they are details I unfortunately glossed over, and big details at that. You are spot-on about all of them, thank you. Your suggestion for counting in 9 is also helping me a lot in terms of re-conceptualizing the piece properly.

I have a question though - about measure 59, in the score I have, the Ab isn't tied and it says to play the Db+Ab chord (whereas as you've pointed out in measure 9, it is tied) - is this simply because of edition differences?

Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2848970
05/16/19 07:19 PM
05/16/19 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoYos
[...]
I have a question though - about measure 59, in the score I have, the Ab isn't tied and it says to play the Db+Ab chord (whereas as you've pointed out in measure 9, it is tied) - is this simply because of edition differences?


It is indeed a question of edition differences. What edition are you using?

I have five different editions of Clair de lune: individually: Jean Jobert (Paris), Belwin Classics, and Canadian Music Sales (which is a direct copy of Jean Jobert), as well as contained in Alfred Masterworks Suite bergamasque, and the edition I was quoting from, Henle's Suite bergamasque.

Only Henle has the A-flat tied, so you are quite within your rights, as it were, to play the A-flat, D-flat chord in measure 59.

I was hesitant about being as nit-picking as I was (I tend to do that!), and I am glad to read that you find my comments helpful. I think this has good potential; the "Debussy sound" comes out as quite appropriate in your playing.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2848979
05/16/19 07:34 PM
05/16/19 07:34 PM
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I didn't really see it as nit-picking, just some good constructive criticism which I need at this point, so I appreciate it. It's rare to find someone who would take the time to take out the score themselves and critique, so thank you.

I'm going to (somewhat ashamedly) admit I got my sheet music from imslp.org and didn't really look into what edition I got, but I know it's hard to go wrong with details in Henle editions so I will go with what you've pointed out there.

Back to practice!

Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2848990
05/16/19 08:01 PM
05/16/19 08:01 PM
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If counting nine beats to a measure is difficult you can do 1-2-3 three times per measure if you want to.

You have most of the technical demands down quite well but I think you need to add all the dynamic marking in the score and shape some phrases even if that's not marked in the score. Most of the piece seemed to be in a very small dynamic level around mp or mf.

Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2849067
05/17/19 12:21 AM
05/17/19 12:21 AM
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As usual Bruce's comments are spot on, and while I think pianoloverus has a point, especially in the build up before the un poco mosso, I can't help but wonder if you recorded this with a device that levels dynamics as I often see movements that would indicate subtle differences in dynamics that don't come across in the recording.

Regardless, I have little to add other than to say that you have a habit of sometimes accentuating the ends of your phrases that you'll likely want to attend to. Other than that, you capture the mood very well. It's a bit romantic for my tastes as far as the rubato in a piece that comes from a suite made up of older musical forms, but we're use to hearing it this way and to each his own.

Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2849125
05/17/19 06:48 AM
05/17/19 06:48 AM
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Wow, Bruce, you really know this piece inside and out! If and when I get there, I’m coming to you!! What a resource. As you know I’m working on it now, but I have a loooong way to go!


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Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2849364
05/17/19 05:53 PM
05/17/19 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
If counting nine beats to a measure is difficult you can do 1-2-3 three times per measure if you want to.


This makes it a bit more manageable for me, thank you.

Originally Posted by MikeN
As usual Bruce's comments are spot on, and while I think pianoloverus has a point, especially in the build up before the un poco mosso, I can't help but wonder if you recorded this with a device that levels dynamics as I often see movements that would indicate subtle differences in dynamics that don't come across in the recording.


I was hesitant to bring this up, because I felt it would've been the old bad workman and blaming his tools routine - that being said, yes, it was recorded on my camcorder, and it really did "flatten" my dynamics. I'm still working on getting my head around an AT2020 mic that I bought - I will make sure to use it in future recordings.

Originally Posted by MikeN
Regardless, I have little to add other than to say that you have a habit of sometimes accentuating the ends of your phrases that you'll likely want to attend to. Other than that, you capture the mood very well. It's a bit romantic for my tastes as far as the rubato in a piece that comes from a suite made up of older musical forms, but we're use to hearing it this way and to each his own.


Thank you for pointing out the accents - I will try to fix those. Also, what you said about the form and style of play had me thinking for a good part of the night. I knew Clair de Lune was part of a suite, but I had never thought about how its form could be connected to how it should be played. Maybe it has become so popular that the standard way of playing it today is, well, "wrong"? In any case, this has given me much to think about, so thank you for that comment. I will try playing it with less rubato and see how it feels. I do use a ton of it because I always thought that's how this should be played, but now I'm wondering...

Thank you everyone for the comments again. And cmb13 - good luck.

Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2849390
05/17/19 07:26 PM
05/17/19 07:26 PM
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I wouldn't be in too much of a rush to play "Clair de lune" with a limited amount of rubato; Debussy even calls for rubato in spots. If you look at the source that inspired Debussy, in spite of the fact that the other three pieces in the Suite bergamasque (1. Prelude, 2. Menuet and 4. Passepied) reference Baroque dance forms, this one comes from the age of French symbolism (1869 is the date of Verlaine's poem's publication). In my mind, the interest that this piece presents is hightened by its style, so distinct from that of the other three pieces.

Here is Verlaine's poem followed by an English translation (courtesy Wikipedia). This might be a helpful guide to how you interpret "Clair de lune."


Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres.[1]

English Translation

Your soul is a chosen landscape
Where charming masquerades and dancers are promenading,
Playing the lute and dancing, and almost
Sad beneath their fantastic disguises.

While singing in a minor key
Of victorious love, and the pleasant life
They seem not to believe in their own happiness
And their song blends with the moonlight,

With the sad and beautiful moonlight,
Which sets the birds in the trees dreaming,
And makes the fountains sob with ecstasy,
The tall slim water streams among the marble statues.


BruceD
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Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: BruceD] #2849397
05/17/19 07:45 PM
05/17/19 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
I wouldn't be in too much of a rush to play "Clair de lune" with a limited amount of rubato; Debussy even calls for rubato in spots. If you look at the source that inspired Debussy, in spite of the fact that the other three pieces in the Suite bergamasque (1. Prelude, 2. Menuet and 4. Passepied) reference Baroque dance forms, this one comes from the age of French symbolism (1869 is the date of Verlaine's poem's publication). In my mind, the interest that this piece presents is hightened by its style, so distinct from that of the other three pieces.
I agree. I think most professional recordings don't give the impression of trying to limit rubato.

Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2849430
05/17/19 10:57 PM
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I should add to my above post which quoted the poem by Paul Verlaine that the setting of the poem, inspired by a painting by Watteau, does evoke both the Italian Commedia dell'arte with its masked and costumed dancers and promenaders strolling through moonlit gardens and scenes painted by the French painter. So, this could put the setting back anywhere from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Nevertheless, the ambiance is surely one of what we might now term Romanticism tinged with nostalgia.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2849772
05/18/19 11:00 PM
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Yikes! Sometimes I feel like I inherited one of my teacher's gifts for mistranslating one's thoughts into words leaving the person on the other end with an idea that's quite inaccurate from what was intended.

Let's try this again.

What your doing is plenty convincing. You need not change your broad concept. It's effective. Really, what I was referring to, rather clumsily, was a strange phenomenon where tempi for this piece have gotten progressively slower and more sentimental over time. It's really quite remarkable to me now listening to older recordings of the work starting with Debussy's and Moiseiwitsch's and moving towards the present. You admirably avoid an extreme of sentimentality, but I think what I prefer is more a sense of dance or at least the suggestion of one which is what I believe I was trying to say when I mentioned old forms as Baroque dances are old forms. According to the VERY unreliable Wikipedia, the piece was originally titled "Promenade sentimentale" which, of course, a promenade is a dance. Of course, Debussy scraped the title and we seem to nowadays lean towards making the piece a song in 9/8 in the outer sections and then another song in the middle which I think can be quite enjoyable too. Still, my preference is for the older approach.

Hopefully that's clearer?

Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2849948
05/19/19 11:17 AM
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Bruce - thank you for that poem. It's beautiful and it brought images that helped with phrasings for the piece.

MikeN - thank you for your kind comments. I probably gave the wrong impression with my response too - I just meant I wanted to cut a bit of my rubato in some places that I felt was too excessive, especially in the beginning and end themes. I may have given the wrong impression about your previous comments to Bruce and pianoloverus too, so I apologize for that.

Also, thank you so much for letting my know that Debussy himself had left a piano roll recording of Clair de Lune, as well as the Moiseiwitsch recording - I had no idea they had recorded it. You are right about the differences in tempo...and I think it's the general case that tempos have slowed down quite a lot on average for many standard repertoire recordings in the last half a century or so.

In any case, I've taken up (or attempted to take up) everyone's suggestions and made another recording today. I've tried to keep most of my rubato in, but also fixed up some of my counting errors. This time I recorded with a proper mic, so hopefully my dynamics come out a bit better. Still some work to do - my fingers slip in some places, some chords aren't grasped well and the phrasings are still sometimes clumsy - but this is where it's at now:


Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2850008
05/19/19 01:44 PM
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Your playing of this piece has greatly improved. There are still some rhythmic errors although you have corrected the biggest ones, so I think you should play it while looking at the score again for a while and/or look at the score while listening to a professional recording.

Here are a few I noticed. I'm assuming that most editions have the same layout on each page.
1. Your most common error is when the piece switches from triplets to two notes played for the three beats. Examples would be p.1 measure 3 and similar places where you don't play the two notes evenly and p.1 m.8 where you hold each eighth for three beats(if you are intentionally doing this I would say you can hold them a little longer than indicated but three beats is too long).
2. p.3 measure 9 and the similar measures that follow, you don't play the 16th notes triplets evenly(the LH ones are rushed) although my guess is that this is more of a technical problem than an counting error.

If you feel you are following the dynamics in the score but that some are not showing up due to the recording equipment that's fine, but I would encourage you to look at the score closely to see if you are aware of all the dynamic markings. Of course, the phrases without any specific dynamic indications can still be shaped if you wish. No dynamic markings doesn't mean everything should be played with exactly the same dynamic.

Re: Debussy - Clair de Lune [Re: PianoYos] #2850147
05/19/19 08:44 PM
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Pianoloverus, thank you for your criticisms/suggestions: 1) I've taken note of the counting errors; I was trying to do a small rit. at the end of p.1 m.8 but I agree it is too long because it breaks the meter. 2) It is definitely a technical problem I will work on. As for your suggestions with dynamics, I will take a look at the score closely today and also try to listen to more recordings. I think this piece is rather tricky for me because I'm still developing my technique of playing chords in p or even pp/ppp - my dynamic palate is still rather lacking, and it's making feminine phrasings (which I try to do but my fingers can't quite pull off yet) very difficult. I agree a lot of phrases can be shaped better.


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