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Thread: Claude Debussy

  1. #256
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    The music is the music, no matter who the conductor. I prefer conductors that make the music sparkle, rather than producing an impressionistic fog, but I don't see that as altering the coloristic use of harmony. I don't really know what you mean by 'ersatz" flavor of the tonalities.'
    Well, it's something that I don't hear when Boulez conducted it. For a moment I thought you were saying there is no difference in the net result when different conductors are involved. We all know that's not true.

    Some conductors make Debussy sound "schmaltzy," which Mandryka agrees with, I assume. Do I need to define "schmaltz?"

    In American English, via Yiddish, schmaltz (adj. schmaltzy) also has an informal meaning of 'excessively sentimental or florid music or art' or 'maudlin sentimentality', similar to one of the uses of the words corn or corny. Its earliest usage in this sense dates to the mid-1930s
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jun-18-2019 at 19:43.
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  2. #257
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Well, it's something that I don't hear when Boulez conducted it. For a moment I thought you were saying there is no difference in the net result when different conductors are involved. We all know that's not true.

    Some conductors make Debussy sound "schmaltzy," which Mandryka agrees with, I assume. Do I need to define "schmaltz?"

    In American English, via Yiddish, schmaltz (adj. schmaltzy) also has an informal meaning of 'excessively sentimental or florid music or art' or 'maudlin sentimentality', similar to one of the uses of the words corn or corny. Its earliest usage in this sense dates to the mid-1930s
    One trap you can fall into is to make Debussy sound too 'dreamy.' I like conductors who emphasize the rhythmic snap and dynamic contrasts, and who bring out individual orchestral lines. French conductors tend to be good at this. Ansermet is an example of doing it right. I also like Paul Paray.

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  4. #258
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    Quote Originally Posted by NLAdriaan View Post
    Last week I went to hear the RCO with Vladimir Jurowski, playing Jeux. After the concert we actually got to speak to Jurowski himself. He explained a few interesting things about Debussy. First of all the idea that Debussy saw himself as an impressionist composer was a total misconception. Debussy saw himself as a direct descendant of Mozart and Bach, not as a musical Monet. He would not belong to any 'ism' and certainly not impressionism. Most interesting were his ideas about a turning point in Debussy's
    oeuvre. After La Mer, Debussy outright changed to modernism. Images, Jeux and some other late works are completely different from structure compared to the earlier works. Jeux premiered a few weeks away from Le Sacre and when you look at the structure of both works, Le Sacre sounds modernist but is structured in an traditional way, like Rimsky Korsakov. Jeux however is structured in a modernist way but may sound more traditional, compared to the listener. It also is a handicap that most conductors tend to play Debussy like a Monet painting instead of recognizing the modernist in Debussy. Jurowski with the RCO definitely enlightened my ideas about Debussy and they played Jeux accordingly. Great insights and a great music night.
    I like Jurowski's work and agree with the comments you relate, except for the implication that these insights are very controversial. There is a famous Debussy quote to the effect that "anyone who thinks my music is impressionistic is an imbecile." That said, Debussy did write music which he described as conveying his impressions at having various experiences. He also had a neoclassical streak, but was at variance with the classical view of form (which he pointedly refused to adhere to) and harmony (which he often used as 'color' rather than as a functional underpinning). He is complicated.
    Last edited by Baron Scarpia; Jun-18-2019 at 19:52.

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    It’s an interesting comment about the piano music, Scarpia, I intend to listen to his transcriptions again soon. I vaguely remember listening to a piano performance for two hands of Apres Midi d’un faune - George Copeland



    To me it sounds like vulgar cocktail bar music though!
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jun-19-2019 at 06:40.

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  7. #260
    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Anybody heard the tale that during the initial rehearsals for La Mer, one player made a paper boat which was kicked along the floor under the chairs as they learnt the work. One can only imagine how bewildering Debussy's musical stream of consciousness must have seemed to them.
    Masterpiece or no...always good to have some fun too right?
    Last edited by mikeh375; Jun-19-2019 at 11:03.

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  9. #261
    Senior Member NLAdriaan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    I like Jurowski's work and agree with the comments you relate, except for the implication that these insights are very controversial. There is a famous Debussy quote to the effect that "anyone who thinks my music is impressionistic is an imbecile." That said, Debussy did write music which he described as conveying his impressions at having various experiences. He also had a neoclassical streak, but was at variance with the classical view of form (which he pointedly refused to adhere to) and harmony (which he often used as 'color' rather than as a functional underpinning). He is complicated.
    As Jurowski pointed out, Debussy made a clear turn in his work after La Mer (1905) from neoclassical to outright modernist. This was however quite late in Debussy's career. It depends on the conductor or pianist if he plays this late music with the familiar neoclassical touch or if he 'dares' to play it in a modernist way. Jurowski sure played Jeux in an unfamiliar modernist way, which he explained later. I must admit it was an eye-opener to me, because I am also conditioned by the unicolor framing of Debussy.

  10. #262
    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    As far as Debussy works he orchestrated we have:

    Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
    La Mer
    Nocturnes
    Pelléas et Mélisande
    Images
    Jeux

    and more...

    So what we have is very high quality. Yes he was a great piano composer, but certainly no slouch at orchestration either.

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  12. #263
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    Quote Originally Posted by NLAdriaan View Post
    As Jurowski pointed out, Debussy made a clear turn in his work after La Mer (1905) from neoclassical to outright modernist. This was however quite late in Debussy's career. It depends on the conductor or pianist if he plays this late music with the familiar neoclassical touch or if he 'dares' to play it in a modernist way. Jurowski sure played Jeux in an unfamiliar modernist way, which he explained later. I must admit it was an eye-opener to me, because I am also conditioned by the unicolor framing of Debussy.
    Ansermet's recording of Jeux does not shy away from modernist elements, I think. The recent Shui recording is my current favorite.
    Last edited by Baron Scarpia; Jun-20-2019 at 20:15.

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    Senior Member haydnguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    And here I find that I could have had the Ansermet recording (the 1952 mono, anyway, still looking for the 1964) brand new for the same price I paid for the Abbado used:

    https://www.amazon.com/Debussy-Pelle...dp/B002ZIAC76/

    In case anyone else is interested. Hopefully it is still around when I decide to purchase it.
    I always say, never look back (about price). When you see a lesser price there is only heartache.

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  15. #265
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    Debussy is definitely my favorite for piano solo. I'll have to give more of his orchestral works a listen!

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    @Josquin, you were right about the Abbado/Vienna Pelléas. It is excellent. So glad I went for this and not the Karajan.

    I still haven't heard the full opera, but the first two acts are beautiful start to finish.

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  19. #267
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    "Josquin, you were right about the Abbado/Vienna Pelléas. It is excellent. So glad I went for this and not the Karajan."

    Oh good, I'm glad. As a seasoned collector said to me many years ago, when I was first starting to collect classical music recordings, "Remember, you can almost always do better than Karajan..."

    I've found that to be very true, for the most part, with a few exceptions, of course. In fact, I can't even listen to Karajan's Debussy anymore. It's all wrong, to my ears.

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