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Changing meaning of "Staccato" dot?

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#1 EllieD


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Posted 21 January 2020 - 10:43

I'm learning Debussy Dr Gradus ad Parnassum. I have looked at a couple of Youtube vids. The one I've linked to is by MusicOnline OK and the notes provided below the vid state:


"Here staccato does not refer to the note being short and detached but rather the type of touch that is needed. As a matter of fact pedal (which is vital to achieve the ethereal effect that Debussy wants) would mask any such staccato."


Well, obviously a lot of piano music does have staccato dots that can't mean staccato due to use of pedal, but is there anything official to confirm this apparent change in meaning of the dot, at least when it comes to piano music? And if so, when in the history of piano music did this change in meaning start to occur? It's important as you could, by just looking at the notes, assume that large passages of Dr G should be played without pedal at all, in order to make "staccato" notes short and detached, but Debussy states the piece should be played "without dryness" and anyway, he uses the pedal in his own recording.


So the little dot appears to have changed it's meaning - but is there any authority to back this up?










Separate and less important question, but does anyone please have the 2017/18 ABRSM Grade 8 book, and if so, what do they suggest as a metronome marking? I don't think that's so important for a piece like this as the important thing is the absolute evenness of the notes, but I'd be interested to know what they thought so I can match my progress. There's a big variety of tempi on Youtube and the piece seems to work well at any speed.









For those that like this piece, this is my favourite version so far - not Debussy's though! Debussy plays it too fast and it's over before you know it!!! :) 


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#2 Invidia


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Posted 21 January 2020 - 15:11

It's called 'portato' and I believe it originally comes from string instruments. You always have to think orchestrally with Debussy, so I'd highly recommend you look up portato bowing technique and try to recreate that effect on the piano.
My edition doesn't have a metronome marking. I also find Debussy's own recording too fast. As long as you can create a sense of momentum (as well as evenness as you already said) then I agree the tempo can be flexible. 

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