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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Once Upon the Internet – Sergey Schepkin Plays Debussy

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This month, we will have two Once Upon the Internet posts, covering the two books of preludes for piano by Claude Debussy.

The works

Claude Debussy's Préludes are divided into two separate livres (or books) of twelve preludes each. Unlike previous collections of preludes, such as those of J.S. Bach and Chopin, Debussy's do not follow a strict pattern of key signatures.

Each book was written in a matter of months, at an unusually fast pace for Debussy. Book one was written between December 1909 and February 1910. There is no proof that Debussy necessarily intended the preludes to be performed as a cycle, although the musical language throughout each book is so consistent that performers often do so. An important precedent was set on 3 May 1911 by the pianist Jane Mortier who played the entire first book of preludes at the Salle Pleyel in Paris.

Initially, Debussy and other pianists who gave early performances of the works (including Ricardo Viñes) played them in groups of 3 or 4 preludes, which remains a popular approach today. This allows performers to choose preludes with which they have the strongest affinity, or those to which their individual interpretive gifts are most suited.

There is a strong tonal relationship between the preludes that suggests that the published order of the preludes is not arbitrary. For example, the first three preludes in the first book (Danseuses de Delphes, Voiles, and Le Vent dans la Plaine) revolve around the key of B-Flat. In these first three preludes, allusions to the key of B-Flat disappear and reappear, yet a strong sense of fluidity and connection between the preludes is still maintained.

The titles of the preludes are highly significant, both in terms of their descriptive quality, and in the way they were placed in the written score. The titles are written at the end of each work] allowing the performer to experience each individual sound world with fresh ears, without being influenced by Debussy's titles beforehand.

At least one of the titles is poetically vague: the exact meaning of Voiles, the title of the second prelude of the first book, is impossible to determine for certain, since the noun's gender is unknown (in French, voiles can mean either "veils" or "sails" depending on the gender).

The Artist

Sergey Schepkin is an American pianist and educator of Russian birth, living in Brookline, Massachusetts. Born in St. Petersburg, this is where Sergey received his early and formative training studying piano at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with Alexandra Zhukovsky, Grigory Sokolov, and Alexander Ikharev, graduating summa cum laude in 1985.

He moved to the United States in 1990 to study with Russell Sherman at New England Conservatory in Boston, where he earned an Artist Diploma in 1992 and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1999.He made his Carnegie Hall recital debut in 1993, and has performed as soloist and chamber player throughout the world. Sergey Schepkin is a Steinway Artist.

The Performance

Downloaded off MP3.COM in November 2001,these were recorded at Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, Massachusetts. March 19-20, 2001, late released on the Centaur label.

Claude DEBUSSY (1862 –1918)

  • Préludes I, pour piano, L. 117
  • Images I pour piano, L. 110
  • Masques, pour piano, L. 105
  • D'un cahier d'esquisses, pour piano, L. 99
  • L'isle joyeuse, pour piano, L. 106

Sergey Schepkin, Piano [Steinway D]

MP3.COM Download - 23 Nov 2001


More info:

October 12, 2012, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Birthdays: Igor Stravinsky" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel. Read more October 12 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Nov-18-2012 at 17:52 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Musicians , Recorded Music