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Advice on Debussy's Clair de Lune


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#1 SparkysMagicPiano

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Posted 23 December 2020 - 10:27

I find myself on my own this Christmas with several days off work and time to turn to something I'll really enjoy doing. I thought I might take some time to learn Clair de Lune properly instead of dabbling at it. I won't be having another lesson until January so I don't have a chance to ask my teacher's advice, so thought I'd ask here instead:

Any thoughts, comments, suggestions about how to play this piece well? Are there any pitfalls that learners often fall into? Any Youtube performances of it that you really admire, or any that you feel don't give good interpretations of it?

 

Thanks in advance.


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#2 agricola

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Posted 24 December 2020 - 10:19

On the first page of Clair de Lune Debussy deliberately keeps the melody off the first beat of the bar and introduces ties and duplets as well as choosing a 9/8 time signature.  This gives the music a drifting. dreamlike quality.  However the player still needs to feel the underlying three beats in a bar otherwise it can easily disintegrate into just a succession of pretty sounds.  My advice is to make sure you can play it in time (with a metronome) before letting loose with the tempo rubato.  

 

Someone (Walter Gieseking?) said that the danger in Debussy's music is stopping to have a picnic on every beauty spot.


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#3 SparkysMagicPiano

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Posted 24 December 2020 - 18:23

Thanks agricola!  Yes, I've already had the metronome out to make sure I know how the first page would be if it was strictly in time.

 

I love that quote. There are so many beauty spots in Debussy!


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#4 Edwardo

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Posted 30 December 2020 - 15:05

Someone (Walter Gieseking?) said that the danger in Debussy's music is stopping to have a picnic on every beauty spot.

 

Is that worse than rushing over them in a doomed attempt to keep to the pulse?  When I'm playing Debussy on his own, I slather on the rubato with a trowel.


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#5 jch48

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Posted 31 December 2020 - 18:45

1 of 3 by John Mortensen on youtube as CedarvilleMusic
https://youtu.be/zMxgBzCZ_FI


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#6 agricola

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Posted 08 January 2021 - 08:34

Yes, this video is saying exactly what I meant.  Rubato shouldn't be a random dawdling about, which is very irritating to listen to (unless you are the dawdler) but a series of smooth rates of change -- some very small scale and some much more drawn out.  It should feel more like being driven through traffic by an expert driver and not like going for a walk with someone who keeps window shopping.


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#7 Edwardo

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Posted 11 January 2021 - 09:01

Yes, this video is saying exactly what I meant.  Rubato shouldn't be a random dawdling about, which is very irritating to listen to (unless you are the dawdler) but a series of smooth rates of change -- some very small scale and some much more drawn out.  It should feel more like being driven through traffic by an expert driver and not like going for a walk with someone who keeps window shopping.

 

Beautifully put.


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