I have been struck while learning Estampes with the brilliance of Debussy. When you consider the form, harmonic and melodic structures, pianism and sheer range of his compositional style, you get a small glimpse of the reason Debussy’s music will endure through the ages.
The book, The Piano Works of Claude Debussy by E. Robert Schmitz has been a good resource for learning Debussy’s Estampes. I like the way Schmitz walks through each piece describing harmonies and presenting vivid, imaginative pictures of everyday life.
A few things I’ve learned about Soiree dans Grenade (Evening in Granada) from my lessons:
- The Habanera rhythm is delightful to play
- Quite often we think about projecting to an audience – playing to the back row, etc. However, the opening of Soiree is so distant that it works best to draw the audience in. To invite the audience to join in the journey.
- Huge chords! As I am learning this piece, I am teaching Debussy’s Claire de Lune to a student. I love the timing of this. I am embracing the struggle of learning these huge chords and can provide practical insight to him (“because I was just working on it before you arrived!”)
- It is fascinating to evoke the sounds of other instruments on the piano. I am a little proud that the piano is capable of such feats. 🙂
A few things I’ve learned about Jardins sous la pluie (Gardens in the Rain) from my lessons:
- Levels of pianissimo – the energy level really dictates the mood and intensity
- Again, Debussy’s masterful use of harmonies. Utterly beautiful.
- Multiple levels of melodic activity within one measure or phrase. See measures 37-42 as an example.
- Juxtapositions of themes upon themselves in different tonalities and tempos. Genius.
My piano lessons have continued to stretch me to think more deeply about the pieces I’m playing, the technique involved, and the overall enjoyment of music. I’m so grateful to be able to take lessons again.