Arabesque No.1 , Claude Debussy
First, a rerecording of Arabesque No.1 by Claude Debussy. My first video of this piece was done in 2007, so it’s been two years. My approach to this piece hasn’t changed too drastically. I take a very light and somewhat brisk pace, keeping the pedal relatively light throughout to discourage blurring. Yes, it’s Debussy, but this an early Debussy piece that is charming and pleasant, and the patterns in both hands shouldn’t be lost in a harmonic mush. The descending pentatonic figure that is basically the “theme” of the piece should be free to “flutter”. The piece is in a familiar A B A format with a coda at the end, and I try to keep the A sections relatively straight in terms of tempo, allowing for some rubato in the right hand depending on phrase.
The B section is given a bit more freedom with free rubato and pauses between phrases. The section at 1:28 is marked forte in the original score, if I recall correctly. I typically take a “the score is law” approach, but I far prefer this phrase to be whispered in a delicate pianissimo, so I hope Debussy will forgive me for that change. 3:13 is the true climax of the piece despite its dynamics, and should be given a gentle character.
The Girl with the Flaxen Hair , Claude Debussy
One of Debussy’s simpler and more accessible pieces of music. A great deal of it is played with soft dynamics, but it shouldn’t be played so gentle and slowly that it becomes a lament. This is a nostalgic and sweet piece, and should be played with the youthful and innocent quality that embodies Debussy’s vision of the “Girl with the Flaxen Hair”.
I try to keep the opening light on the pedal. Setting up the rhythm of the main melodic motif is most important, as it manifests itself numerous times later on. 0:58 is sometimes rolled, but I never do so. In fact I hardly roll any chord in this piece. 1:10 is the climax. Be careful not to rush, as it should be savored. 1:20 is a wistful reflection, a hushed pianissimo does wonders. The ending I use in my video is not in the original piece. I adapted it from the violin transcription by Heifetz. I feel that it’s a delightful way to end this piece, though purists would probably despise it.
By the Lake at Wallenstadt, Liszt
Liszt is known for his majestic and difficult pieces such as La Campanella or his Hungarian Rhapsodies. A lesser known aspect of his work were delicate tone poems like the one I perform here.
The opening phrases set the backdrop of small waves crashing gently onto the land, and you find yourself at Wallenstadt, looking upon the peaceful lake. From the flowing water rises a gentle melody in the right hand. I try to gradually increase the volume of this melody to give the impression of it having been there all along, alongside the waves. The melody is repeated again, this time in octaves. I try to resist the temptation of using drastic dynamics changes to keep interest. The melody should be gentle all the way through. At 0:54 is really where the character changes significantly.
Don’t be afraid of reaching fortissimo between 1:13 and 1:30, as it will make the gradual return of the initial melodic ideas afterwards so much more refreshing and familiar. The same applies at 2:25 before the coda. The final appearances of the main motif should be gentle and sweet.
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