Claude Debussy, Debussy, piano blog

Reviewing Debussy’s Arabesque 1 with its Impressionist palette

It’s been years since I learned Claude Debussy’s coloristic Arabesque No. 1, so my recent revisit was a reminder of how a solid learning foundation can deepen a musical reconnection.

Reviewing an “old” piece brings a renewed opportunity to delve into its character, form, structure, harmonic flow, phrasing, etc. while keeping an open mind about fingering choices. Fundamental “housekeeping” revisions may spring from experiences with music of diverse eras that have widened a music learner’s horizons on technical and musical levels.

The counterpoint of J.S. Bach, for example, spills into the “voicing” arena, even as we advance the clock 200 years to a musical period that embraces moods, colors, and blurred harmonies. We cross-reference and cross-fertilize as we practice Baroque Inventions, Preludes, Fugues; Classical era sonatas; Romantic period repertoire, and explore a rich repository of tonalities intermingled with dissonance. The journeys, regardless of historical period, are complementary.

Naturally, teaching a particular composition is another form of revisit that stretches our perspective and ripens our understanding of a composition.

The Debussy Arabesque No. 1, has been part of my learning and mentoring archive for years, yet this latest dip into its palette of colors produced new awakenings. With a long held embrace of layered learning, that included very slow tempo practicing, framed by a singing-tone, and seamless legato, I savored this latest journey of discovery.

Play Through:

Carnegie Hall, Chopin, Cincinnati World Piano Competition, Debussy, Marianna Prjelvalskaya, Naxos, piano competition, Rachmaninoff, Weill Concert Hall, you tube.com

A Big New York Debut Recital for Pianist, Marianna Prjevalskaya

Marianna photo

After many international victories and a stash of prizes, honors and recital appearances flowing out of them, Marianna Prjevalskaya, will make her debut in New York City’s cultural limelight.

EVENT DETAILS

“MARIANNA PRJEVALSKAYA, 2013 GOLD MEDALIST OF CINCINNATI WORLD PIANO COMPETITION, PERFORMS her debut recital at CARNEGIE HALL. (Weill Recital Hall)

“The event, presented by the Cincinnati World Piano Competition takes place Monday, February 23, 2015 @ 7:30pm.”

(“The Cincinnati World Piano Competition is one of the top piano competitions in the United States. Held annually, it aims to recognize and promote outstanding piano artistry and support the career development of young pianists.”)

***

By all accounts Prjevalskaya’s performance will surely follow those that have lit up the globe, making her name well-recognized in the cosmos of solo playing and chamber music.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/prjevalskaya-soars-as-a-world-wide-pianist/
(Enjoy an enlightening interview with the artist)

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The pianist’s artistry first came to my attention when I serendipitously stumbled upon an Online beamed competition from Alaska. Despite the pitfalls of media transmission, Marianna Prjelvalskaya’s Haydn, Schumann, Debussy, and Scriabin, resonated over the air waves with impeccable beauty. Selections were rendered with period era sensitivity–having a permeated singing tone thread so emblematic of the Russian School of playing, yet infused with a wide panorama of colors and nuances that reflected Prjevalskaya’s Pan-European exposures. (Spain is her country of origin though her musical activity and educational background rise beyond specific borders.) In the midst of her international flurry of concerts, for example, the pianist manages to pursue advanced performance degrees on the East Coast, counting Yale and Peabody among her prestigious bastions of learning.

In keeping with a unique journey of individuality that characterizes the pianist’s blossoming career, I asked Maestra Prjevalskaya to add a personal touch to her upcoming recital, by providing a set of program notes:

First half:
Debussy Preludes Book II

Second half:
Chopin Fantasy Op. 49 in F minor
Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme by Chopin Op. 22

***

“Debussy’s collection of preludes is a world of sensations and emotions– a uniquely inspiring experience that draws on the listener’s imagination and carries him/her into a transcendent state.

“The composer collects his own impressions from samples of poetry and illustrations to oriental, decorative objects, transforming them into fantastic images that create a tonal and architectural unity.

“As an entire set, these preludes are rarely performed, so it’s really an exciting experience for me to share the complete work with my audience. In the future, I plan to prepare the first book of Preludes as well.”

***

“Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme by Chopin Op. 22 is one of my deeply beloved works. I personally think it is a hidden gem in the piano repertoire that unfortunately has been overshadowed by the composer’s other popular piano compositions. This particular set of variations exemplifies an infinite world of musical and technical possibilities that awaits exploration and savoring.

“Based on Chopin’s Prelude in C minor Op. 28, it’s a collage of contrasting emotions encompassing naiveté and anguish to exuberant joy. The theme becomes totally unrecognizable as the work unfolds, and it’s absolutely captivating to see, feel and experience with one’s own hands how Rachmaninoff creates a kaleidoscopic of textures with significant emotional depth.

“In addition to this work, I decided to include the very special Chopin Fantasy. Often viewed as fragile and vulnerable, the composer reveals his heroic face in a full-spirited creation. On a personal level, I felt it would be meaningful to give homage to Chopin before performing Rachmaninoff’s Variations.”

***

Without a doubt, Marianna’s concert is one not to miss, so gather the information below and purchase your tickets a.s.a.p.

Important Recital Details

Tickets are now on sale and may be purchased online at http://www.carnegiehall.org
To order tickets by phone, call Carnegie Charge at (212) 247-7800.

For more information about the event, please contact Laura Bock at laura@cincinnatiwpc.org or Marianna Prjevalskaya at info@prjevalskaya.com

Marianna’s Website

http://www.prjevalskaya.com

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Debussy Arabesque No. 1 blends well with East Bay seascapes (Video)

I couldn’t resist the temptation to embed Bay panoramas in a Debussy soundtrack. It followed my journey along the scenic Amtrak 711 route.

A new set of vistas were framed by a whizzing train’s marred window. Yet the mood paintings managed to sift through an imperfect lens.

Once I had settled into my El Cerrito piano studio, I played the exquisitely formed Arabesque No. 1 on my Hamilton Baldwin in readiness for a music/photo art match-up.

About the Composer:

From Wiki:

“Achille-Claude Debussy (22nd August 1862 – 25th March 1918) was a French composer. He was one of the most important figures in music at the turn of the last century; with his music representing the transition from late-romantic to 20th century.

“Debussy’s most dramatic contribution to music history was his disregard for traditional chord structures and tonality. An exponent of the whole tone scale, his pieces would also not adhere to a strict meter or rhythm. They flowed extemporaneously with suggestions of extra-musical images.

“Adventurous harmonies influenced the rise of jazz music later in the 20th century.”

**

The Arabesque No. 1, Debussy’s earliest composition, together with its companion no. 2, enliven the imagination with an overlay of clouds, mist–a wash of color, and rolling, wavy phrases that intermingle with oceanic currents.

Yet ‘Arabesque’ specifically “referred to undulating, tendril-like ornaments of Arabic and Islamic art which coincided with an age in which this form was in full flower. It obeyed the laws of beauty inscribed in every movement of nature.” (Notes to Barenreiter edition)

(The melody with its improvised character, is richly embroidered. Triplets against four 8th notes in the bass, create a dualism of pleasing contours, though the figures are difficult to realize.)

Finally, Debussy, a harmonic innovator, used the whole tone scale, as well as 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, and more compounded chords to engage the listener and draw him into a universe of rich sonority and color.

My mixed-media sample:

Claude Debussy, Debussy, Debussy Preludes, Ena Bronstein, Ena Bronstein Barton, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube video, yout tube, youtube.com

Ena Bronstein, pianist, plays Debussy’s “Feux D’artifice” (recorded “live” in concert)

A further blend of music and seascapes, not to mention muted swans.

Ena Bronstein was my former teacher in Fresno before she departed for the East Coast. Currently, she’s on the faculty of Westminster Choir College of Rider University, Princeton, N.J.

LINK:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/virtuosity-and-poetry-in-motion-hallmark-ena-bronsteins-musical-return-to-fresno/

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Piano Technique: Playing beyond the fingers to sculpt beautiful phrases (Debussy Arabesque no. 1)

Many piano students who practice Debussy’s Arabesque no. 1 tend to grab and articulate notes, rather than let them flow from energy streaming down relaxed arms into supple wrists.

Reliance on fingers-down playing becomes the panacea for accuracy, while it sacrifices poetic musical expression.

In the video below, I demonstrate how phrases can be sculpted with a relaxed, supple wrist, that moves up, down, and rotates from side-to-side when needed. It can even draw little circles of motion to curve musical lines.

Above and beyond the wrist is the central fuel provider: arms free of tension.

In harmony with undulating wrists, they realize an Impressionistic palette of rolling arpeggios and melted cadences that characterize Debussy’s music.

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One of my favorite quotes from Just Being at the Piano by Mildred Portney Chase pertains to beautiful phrasing:

“You can learn much from nature. Take a moment to look at a tree. Find the branch that is moving the most quietly. Feel how it might feel, as though a gentle breeze is moving your hands. Your hands may sway gently, back and forth, similar to the way a branch moves. Let this feeling move into your arms, enabling them to increase their span of movement and change direction. Imagine that the breeze is carrying your hands on gently curving paths of air currents. You are releasing your expression through your own individualized choreography of movement.”

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Debussy Arabesque No. 1 and the back story (Video)

Speaking of pianos, and decisions about which to use, I decided to give Haddy Haddorff another opportunity to sing like a nightingale. This was a late-into-the-night sound exploration following an earlier trip to the Mac Store at Fresno’s Fashion Fair Mall. The Yeti mic was not registering–no sound–no explanation, though it was properly connected.

So I shut down the computer, re-booted and checked for updates. It didn’t matter. Still mute despite visual sound waves galore.

Another lingering problem– the intermittent though disturbing, out of synch frames–an issue finally acknowledged by a Mac technician, who declared, “It may be related to the iMovie program.”

So what’s next?

I guess I’ll wait for the next update as I watch my hands and the music run off in different directions.

Meanwhile, I was given a new Yeti Mic, since the older one didn’t register at the store.(better than a squeak in a pedal disappearing when the tuner waltzes in) This time I had the upfront and personal evidence.

I came home, practiced, and found myself wandering from the Steinway back to Haddy playing the Debussy Arabesque 1.

The grand piano afforded a nice work-out because the action is stiff by comparison to Ms. Haddy. So if you hang around the Steinway long enough and then mosey over to the second piano, the playing is a piece of cake by comparison. It resulted in a smooth transition to the Debussy Arabesque No. 1 without instrumental resistance.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to have a work-out piano until the knots are addressed. (I’m waiting for the Magical Messiah tech to appear)

Next year in Jerusalem?

***

It was well after midnight when I managed to upload the Debussy.

Yeti mic was humming, though a tad out of synch with my arms and hands.

Up at 5 a.m., I hoped nothing had imploded during my zzzzzs, and was pleasantly relieved to see the posting. It came with some kind of message that the rights to the Debussy were owned by some entity and such.

“GoDigital MG For a Third Party Content Type: Musical Composition”

You just never whose domain you’re trampling on.

It’s getting so bad now that these companies own Chopin and other composers who died over 150 years ago.

That’s worth another blog and a half.

So stay tuned….

RELATED:

Debussy Arabesque Instruction


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/piano-instruction-debussy-arabesque-no-1-video/

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A Piano Lesson in progress: Debussy Arabesque No. 1

Students find it helpful to revisit parts of their lessons on video. They can pinpoint ways of practicing in baby steps by separating hands, parceling out voices, and shaping phrases.

Yesterday, an adult student and I worked on the first section of the Debussy “Arabesque,” No. 1, and focused most of our attention on counting through measures, phrasing, voice balance, and playing 3 against 2.

Part One:

Part Two: