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Debussy plays Debussy – Clair de Lune (1913)

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Debussy plays Debussy – Clair de Lune (1913)

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Claude-Achille Debussy – Clair de Lune (Mondglanz, Mondschein, Moonlight), Suite Bergamasque, Debussy, piano.

The Suite bergamasque was first composed in 1890-1905. “Claude Debussy Plays His Finest Works” Claude Debussy, Piano Roll, 1913.

From 1903 to 1913, Claude Debussy recorded several of his own pieces on piano rolls. Debussy was delighted with the reproduction quality, saying in a letter to Edwin Welte: “It is impossible to attain a greater perfection of reproduction than that of the Welte apparatus. I am happy to assure you in these lines of my astonishment and admiration of what I heard. I am, Dear Sir, Yours Faithfully, Claude Debussy.”

More than one century old, these recordings allow us to listen to the great composer playing his own works. Debussy made his last recordings when he was 52 years old and suffering from cancer, in 1913. He died less than five years later, on March 25, 1918.

Rolls for the reproducing piano were generally made from the recorded performances of famous musicians. Typically, a pianist would sit at a specially designed recording piano, and the pitch and duration of any notes played would be either marked or perforated on a blank roll, together with the duration of the sustaining and soft pedal.

Reproducing pianos can also re-create the dynamics of a pianist’s performance by means of specially encoded control perforations placed towards the edges of a music roll, but this coding was never recorded automatically.

Different companies had different ways of notating dynamics, some technically advanced (though not necessarily more effective), some secret, and some dependent entirely on a recording producer’s handwritten notes, but in all cases these dynamic hieroglyphics had to be skillfully converted into the specialized perforated codes needed by the different types of instrument.

The playing of many pianists and composers is preserved on reproducing piano roll. Gustav Mahler, Camille Saint-Saëns, Edvard Grieg, Teresa Carreño, Claude Debussy, Manuel de Falla, Scott Joplin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev, Alexander Scriabin, Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin are amongst the composers and pianists who have had their performances recorded in this way.

Claude Debussy’s famous Clair de lune is the third piece of the Suite bergamasque for piano, a work whose title was chosen as much for its composer’s love of the word-sounds as for its Renaissance implications (though the work can rightly be described as something of a tribute to the French harpsichordists of olden days).

The D flat major of Clair de lune is perfectly chosen, the gleaming melody in parallel thirds (con sordina, Debussy requests) expertly balanced by the beautifully dissonant tempo rubato that follows it. During the un poco mosso middle section of Clair de lune, the music swells far past the pianissimo of the opening, and in its climax one might say that the young composer has crafted more of sunlight than of moonlight; the incessant arpeggios may well be overdone, but one can cherish them all the same.

Little wisps of these arpeggios find their way over into the reprise of the opening music, and the rolling tones of the middle section are given a few measures to plead their case once more before the final chromatic cadence, a moment of absolute tranquility, is made.

Clair de Lune is a French poem written by Paul Verlaine in the year 1869. It is the inspiration for the third and most famous movement of Debussy’s 1890 Suite bergamasque of the same name. ‘Clair de lune’ (‘Moonlight’) is from Verlaine’s early collection Fêtes galantes (Gallant Parties, 1869).

Clair de Lune by Paul Verlaine

Clair de lune” (English “Moonlight”) is a poem written by French poet Paul Verlaine in 1869. It is the inspiration for the third and most famous movement of Claude Debussy‘s 1890 Suite bergamasque. Debussy also made two settings of the poem for voice and piano accompaniment. The poem has also been set to music by Gabriel Fauré, Louis Vierne and Josef Szulc.

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

Your soul is a chosen landscape
Where charming masquerades and dancers are promenading,
Playing the lute and dancing, and almost
Sad beneath their fantastic disguises.

While singing in a minor key
Of victorious love, and the pleasant life
They seem not to believe in their own happiness
And their song blends with the light of the moon,

With the sad and beautiful light of the moon,
Which sets the birds in the trees dreaming,
And makes the fountains sob with ecstasy,
The slender water streams among the marble statues.

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Debussy 1ère Arabesque avec partition / with sheet music

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Claude Debussy: The Velvet Revolution

Claude Debussy died a century ago, but his music has not grown old. Bound only lightly to the past, it floats in time. As it coalesces, bar by bar, it appears to be improvising itself into being—which is the effect Debussy wanted. After a rehearsal of his orchestral suite “Images,” he said, with satisfaction, “This has the air of not having been written down.” In a conversation with one of his former teachers, he declared, “There is no theory. You merely have to listen. Pleasure is the law.”

To mark the centenary of Debussy’s death, which fell in March, two handsome boxed sets of his complete works have been issued. They befit a man who treasured pretty things. One, from the Deutsche Grammophon label, is decorated with Jacques-Émile Blanche’s portrait of the composer, in which he assumes an aristocratic, lapel-grasping pose. The other, from Warner Classics, displays Hokusai’s woodblock print “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa,” which, at Debussy’s request, was reproduced on the cover of one of his most celebrated scores, “La Mer.”

Physical recordings are no longer a fashionable way of listening to music, but you will probably get closer to Debussy if you shut down the Internet and give yourself wholly to his world. The D.G. set has the libretto of his only finished opera, “Pelléas et Mélisande,” and the texts of his large output of songs—necessary resources in approaching an acutely literary composer whom Stéphane Mallarmé and Marcel Proust recognized as an equal.

It is best to start where Pierre Boulez said modern music was born: with the ethereal first notes of the orchestral tone poem “Prelude to ‘The Afternoon of a Faun.’ ” Debussy wrote it between 1892 and 1894, in response to the famous poem by Mallarmé. The score begins with what looks like an uncertain doodle on the part of the composer. A solo flute slithers down from C-sharp to G-natural, then slithers back up; the same figure recurs; then there is a songful turn around the notes of the E-major triad.

Yet, in the fourth bar, when more instruments enter—two oboes, two clarinets, a horn, and a rippling harp—they ignore the flute’s offering of E. Instead, they recline into a lovely chord of nowhere, a half-diminished seventh of the type that Wagner placed at the outset of “Tristan und Isolde.” This leads to a lush dominant seventh on B-flat, which ought to resolve to E-flat, but doesn’t. Harmonies distant from one another intermingle in an open space. Most striking is the presence of silence. The B-flat harmonies are framed by bar-long voids. This is sound in repose, listening to its own echo.

Debussy accomplished something that happens very rarely, and not in every lifetime: he brought a new kind of beauty into the world. In 1894, when “Faun” was first performed, its language was startling but not shocking: it caused no scandal, and was accepted by the public almost at once.

Debussy engineered a velvet revolution, overturning the extant order without upheaval. His influence proved to be vast, not only for successive waves of twentieth-century modernists but also in jazz, in popular song, and in Hollywood. When both the severe Boulez and the suave Duke Ellington cite you as a precursor, you have done something singular.

The music is easy to love but hard to explain. The shelf of books about Debussy is not large, and every scholar who addresses him faces the challenge of analyzing an artist to whom analysis was abhorrent. The latest addition to that shelf is Stephen Walsh’s “Debussy: A Painter in Sound” (Knopf), which places proper emphasis on Debussy’s myriad links to other art forms.

The composer may have been the first in history to become a fully modern-minded artist, joining a community of writers and painters, borrowing ideas and lending them in turn. Admittedly, before Debussy there was Wagner, whose impact was sufficiently seismic that the term “Wagnerism” had to be coined to describe it. With Wagner, though, the influence tended to go in one direction: outward. Debussy was receptive. He saw, he read, he pondered, and he transformed the ineffable into sound.

“He was a very, very strange man,” the soprano Mary Garden said. With his piercing eyes and jutting forehead, he could make a rough first impression—like “a proud Calabrian bandit,” according to the pianist Ricardo Viñes. François Lesure, the author of the definitive French-language biography of Debussy, portrays him as “withdrawn, unsociable, taciturn, skittish, susceptible, distant, shy.” He was said to be “catlike and solitary.”

He “lived in a kind of haughty misanthropy, behind a rampart of irony.” He had a tendency toward mendacity in his professional and personal relationships. He was conscious enough of his limitations: “Those around me persist in not understanding that I have never been able to live in a real world of people and things.”

Debussy was born in the Paris suburbs in 1862, to an impoverished family. His father, Manuel, held a string of jobs, including china-shop owner, travelling salesman, and print worker. His mother, Victorine, was a seamstress. In the period of the Paris Commune, in 1871, Manuel served in the revolutionary forces, as a captain, and when the Commune was defeated he spent more than a year in prison.

Fortuitously, when Manuel told Charles de Sivry, another inmate, about his son’s musical interests, Sivry mentioned that his mother, Antoinette Mauté, was a pianist. Mauté, a well-connected woman who was said to have studied with Chopin, began teaching the boy, and helped to arrange his admission to the Paris Conservatory, in 1872. Another notable thing about Mauté is that her daughter Mathilde had the misfortune of being married to Paul Verlaine. At the time, that ill-fated couple was living with Mauté, and Arthur Rimbaud, soon to become Verlaine’s lover, was an increasing source of tension. Although Debussy never spoke of meeting either Verlaine or Rimbaud, he must have been at least vaguely aware of the chaos in the household.

At the conservatory, Debussy was a restless student, exasperating his teachers and fascinating his schoolmates. When confronted with the fundamentals of harmony and form, he asked why any systems were needed. He had little trouble mastering academic exercises, and, after two attempts, he won the Prix de Rome, a traditional stepping stone to a successful compositional career.

But in his early vocal pieces, and in his legendarily mesmerizing improvisations at the piano, he jettisoned rules that had been in place for hundreds of years. Familiar chords appeared in unfamiliar sequences. Melodies followed the contours of ancient or exotic scales. Forms dissolved into textures and moods. An academic evaluation accused him of indulging in Impressionism—a label that stuck.

Perhaps Debussy’s central insight was about the constricting effect of the standard major and minor scales. Why not use the old modes of medieval church music? Or the differently arrayed and tuned scales found in non-Western traditions? Or the whole-tone scale, which divided the octave into equal intervals? Debussy had a particular fondness for the natural harmonic series—the spectrum of overtones that arise from a vibrating string. If you pinch a taut string in the middle, its pitch goes up an octave. If you pinch it at successively smaller fractions, the basic intervals of conventional Western harmony emerge. So far, so good: but what about the notes further out in the series?

These are more difficult to assimilate. In the chain of intervals derived from a C, you encounter a tone somewhere near B-flat and another in the vicinity of F-sharp. Debussy favored a mode that has become known as the acoustic scale, which mimics the overtone series by raising the fourth degree (F-sharp) and lowering the seventh (B-flat). That those notes correspond to blue notes helps to explain Debussy’s appeal to jazz musicians.

Debussy had the prejudices typical of his time, and never thought too deeply about the cultures that he sampled. Nevertheless, he knew to look outside the classical sphere for nourishment. At the Paris Exposition of 1889, he heard a gamelan ensemble, which made Western harmonies sound to him like “empty phantoms of use to clever little children.” Those first measures of “Afternoon of a Faun” capture Debussy’s breadth of vision: first the call of the faun, which feels primal and uncomposed, and then that sumptuous chord on B-flat, which has no need to resolve, because it is complete in itself, a chord of overtones resting on its fundamental.

Debussy’s rejection of the musical status quo was fuelled by his jealous love of poetry and painting. The most revelatory experience I’ve had with the composer in recent years was not in the concert hall but in a museum: an exhibition entitled “Debussy, Music, and the Arts,” which was mounted at the Musée de l’Orangerie, in Paris, in 2012. To turn from the manuscript of “Faun” to a copy of Mallarmé’s poem, and then to see on the walls a Whistler seascape and Hokusai’s “Great Wave,” was to feel Debussy’s synesthetic kick. For him, music had fallen behind: it had nothing that rivalled free verse in poetry, the drift toward abstraction in painting, and the investigation of mystical spheres that was happening across the arts.

Poetry spurred Debussy’s earliest breakthroughs. His individual voice materializes in settings of Paul Bourget, Théodore de Banville, Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Mallarmé—poets who ranged from Parnassian classicism to Symbolist esotericism. Like a hunter chasing an elusive quarry, Debussy repeatedly tried to capture the eerie stillness of Verlaine’s “En Sourdine”: “Calm in the half-light / Made by the tall branches, / Let our love be imbued / With deep silence.”

As Walsh observes, Debussy’s first attempts, from 1882, are thick with Wagnerian harmony. A version from a decade later is spare and piercing, all excess expunged. Debussy is ready to compose “Afternoon of a Faun,” which arose when Mallarmé asked him to contribute to a theatrical version of his poem. (No production resulted.) “Inert, all burns in this savage hour,” the poem reads, making oblique mention of “him who searches for the la”—the note A. This is the atmosphere of Debussy’s opening, with its charged stasis and its chords of resonance.

The visual arts proved an equally important fund of inspiration, although the Impressionist label has perpetuated the erroneous notion that Debussy tried to do in music what Monet, Renoir, and Degas did in painting. Those artists were in his field of vision, but the rush of brushwork that defines Impressionist painting—the erasure of the clean line in pursuit of a hazier reality—is alien to Debussy’s crystalline technique.

Elusive but never vague, he is closer in spirit to the Symbolist movement, with its vivid evocations of unreal realms, and to the fable-bright world of Les Nabis. He also looked to the Pre-Raphaelites—“La Damoiselle Élue,” a pivotal early cantata, is based on Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem “The Blessed Damozel”—and to the semi-abstract seascapes of J. M. W. Turner, which forecast the tumult of “La Mer.”

The culmination of this first phase of Debussy’s revolution is “Pelléas et Mélisande,” an opera so unlike its predecessors that it effectively inaugurated a new genre of modernist music theatre. A tale of two half-brothers who fall in love with the same mysterious maiden, it is based on the eponymous play by the Belgian Symbolist Maurice Maeterlinck, who had a fin-de-siècle vogue before largely falling out of sight.

Maeterlinck is worth revisiting—his elliptical dialogue looks ahead to the work of Samuel Beckett. Debussy, facing the gnomic text of “Pelléas,” made the radical decision to set it line by line, without recourse to a versifying librettist. This had been done before, notably in Russian opera, but Debussy achieved an unprecedented merger of music with an advanced literary aesthetic. In the wake of “Pelléas” came Strauss’s “Salome” and “Elektra,” Berg’s “Wozzeck” and “Lulu,” and Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s “Die Soldaten.”

“Pelléas” engenders its own world on the first page of the score. In an essay in the new scholarly anthology “Debussy’s Resonance” (University of Rochester Press), Katherine Bergeron indicates how this happens. In the first four bars, bassoons, cellos, and double basses make a stark, columnar sound that conjures the forest in which the drama begins. It is, Bergeron writes, an evocation of “dim antiquity, carving out a fragment of plainsong in stolid half notes.” She continues, “The figure suggests an immense murmur, or an ancient cosmic sigh, whose sheer weight draws it to the bottom of the orchestra. Then it vanishes. A different music takes its place, sounding high in the winds, its bass voice a tritone away. With its more articulate rhythm and brighter timbre, the melody sounds a sort of anxious trill: indecisive, edgy, almost dissonant.”

This second motif is associated with Golaud, who ends up killing his half-brother, Pelléas. Golaud, Bergeron observes, seems strikingly disconnected from the forest around him. We hear not only two distinct textures but the gap between them. This defining gesture is painterly at heart: a single stroke of the brush turns the remainder of the canvas into resonant space.

The première of “Pelléas,” in 1902, established Debussy as the dominant French composer of his time. He became a trend, a “school”: critics spoke of “Debussystes” and “Debussysme.” For a man accustomed to thinking of himself as a loner, the fame was disconcerting. His life was further complicated by personal chaos, largely of his own making. His first marriage, to the fashion model Lilly Texier, fell apart when he began an affair with the singer Emma Bardac. In 1904, Texier attempted suicide; the affair became public, and Debussy lost many friends. He subsequently married Bardac. That relationship, too, was troubled, although it lasted until his death. “An artist is, all in all, a detestable, inward-facing man,” Debussy wrote to Texier in 1904, as if brutal candor somehow excused his behavior.

In this period, Debussy took up a second career, as a music critic, delivering a stream of prickly, contrarian opinions that seemed almost designed to increase his isolation. Beethoven wrote badly for the piano, he proclaimed: “With a few exceptions, his works should have been allowed to rest.” Wagner was a literary genius but no musician. Gluck was pompous and artificial. There was a method to this crankiness: Debussy was attacking the tendency to worship the past at the expense of the present. In a later interview, he said that he actually admired Beethoven and Wagner, but refused to “admire them uncritically, just because people have told me that they are masters.”

Debussy struggled to come up with a successor to “Pelléas.” His list of contemplated operas included a setting of Pierre Louÿs’s “Aphrodite”; an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”; and works on topics as various as Siddhartha, Orpheus, the Oresteia, Don Juan, Romeo and Juliet, and Tristan and Yseult (“a subject which has not as yet been treated,” Debussy said, impishly).

Not all these ideas were serious; Debussy had a bad habit of seeking advances for projects that he had little intention of completing. He did, however, expend considerable energy on a pair of operas inspired by Edgar Allan Poe: a comedy, based on “The Devil in the Belfry,” and a tragedy, based on “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Enough sketches for the latter exist that the scholar Robert Orledge has been able to make a stylish and often convincing reconstruction, which the Pan Classics label recorded in 2016, alongside a less persuasive version of the “Belfry” material.

If Debussy’s operatic path remained largely blocked, he found new fluency in the production of instrumental scores: the three sets of “Images” for piano and for orchestra, the two books of Preludes for solo piano, “La Mer,” and the dance score “Jeux.” In this pervasively dazzling body of music, Symbolist gloom gives way to glowing new colors and a fresh rhythmic punch. Popular influences come to the fore: vaudeville tunes, circus marches, cabaret, Iberian dances, ragtime.

While exploring the D.G. Debussy box, the richer of the two collections, I found myself fixated on Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s casually immaculate rendering of “Reflets dans l’Eau,” from the first book of “Images.” Michelangeli’s recording of “Images,” made in 1971, is rightly regarded as one of the greatest piano records ever made. “Reflets” begins with eight bars confined to the key of D-flat major, or, more precisely, to the scale associated with that key. Chords drawn from those seven notes lounge indolently across the keyboard. In the ninth bar, though, the work goes gorgeously haywire.

Extraneous notes invade the inner voices, even as a D-flattish upper line is maintained. Pinprick dissonances disrupt the sense of a tonal center, and the music collapses into harmonic limbo, in the form of a rolled chord of fourths. This is Debussyan atonality, which predates Schoenberg’s and is very different in spirit: not a lunge into the unknown but a walk on the wild side. We stroll back home with a descending string of chords that defy brief description: sevenths of various kinds, diminished sevenths, dominant sevenths, and what, in jazz, is called the minor major seventh.

Michelangeli, who admired the jazz pianist Bill Evans and was admired by Evans in turn, plays this whole stretch of music as if he were hunched over a piano in a smoke-filled club, at one in the morning, sometime during the Eisenhower Administration. Two bars later, we are back in D-flat—an even more restricted version of it, on the ancient pentatonic scale. Some kind of bending of the musical space-time continuum has occurred, and we are only sixteen bars in.

Debussy is often stereotyped as an artist of motionless atmospheres, but he was a radical in rhythm as well as in harmony. I’ve also become mildly obsessed by a few bars in the propulsive final movement of “La Mer,” entitled “Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea,” which is structured around successive iterations of a simple theme of narrow falling intervals: A to G-sharp, A-sharp to G-sharp. As in “Afternoon of a Faun,” an idea remains largely fixed while the context around it undergoes kaleidoscopic changes. First the theme sounds in the winds, over rapidly pulsing lower strings; then it hovers in an ambience of luminous calm; then it takes on an impassioned, quasi-Romantic character in the violins.

The fourth iteration never fails to make me want to leap from my chair. The downward-sighing theme is back in the winds, but it floats above a multilayered texture in which rhythms and accents are landing every which way: scurrying triplets in the strings, horns sounding on the fourth beat of the bar, piercing grace notes in the piccolo, and a curious oompah section comprised of timpani, cymbals, and bass drum. Most of the instruments are dancing to the side of the beat.

The net result of all this layering is an irresistible sense of buoyancy. Particularly striking is a galloping pattern in the strings—four rapid hoofbeats endlessly recurring. Debussy liked the work of the British painter and illustrator Walter Crane, and I wonder whether “La Mer” might have something to do with Crane’s 1892 painting “Neptune’s Horses,” in which phantom beasts materialize from a cresting wave.

The D.G. box includes two performances of “La Mer”: one with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, under Leonard Bernstein, and one with the Berlin Philharmonic, under Herbert von Karajan. Both make an impressive noise at the climaxes, although they fall prey to an aggrandizing tendency noted by the scholar Simon Trezise, in a book-length study of “La Mer.” Since Toscanini, Trezise argues, conductors have made “La Mer” an “orchestral showpiece of the first order,” rather than a complexly layered conception in which foreground and background merge.

Trezise rightly draws attention to pioneering recordings by the Italian conductor Piero Coppola, in which the strings are restrained in favor of pungent winds. That leanness and a vibrancy of color reëmerge in a 2012 rendition of “La Mer” by Jos van Immerseel and the ensemble Anima Eterna Brugge, which uses instruments from Debussy’s era.

Still, I cherish most the various recordings made by Boulez, who dedicated himself to banishing all sentimental mists from Debussy’s music, thereby exposing its modernity. Regrettably, Boulez’s 1995 reading with the Cleveland Orchestra is missing from the D.G. box, but the set does include his staggeringly precise account of “Jeux.” In the finale of “La Mer,” Boulez’s meticulous attention to rhythmic subtleties redoubles the music’s kinetic energy. When he led the New York Philharmonic in “La Mer” in 1992—his final appearance with that ensemble—the waves broke on the ears with cold, lashing force.

In 1913, Debussy arrived at the inevitable moment when he no longer occupied the vanguard. That year, the Ballets Russes unleashed Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Debussy marvelled at Stravinsky’s invention, but felt uneasy about his younger colleague’s ruthless brilliance. “Primitive music with all modern conveniences” was his wry comment on the “Rite.” The advent of full-on atonality in the music of Schoenberg and his pupils left Debussy cold. He loved the strange but not the harsh.

As Europe devolved into barbarism in the early years of the First World War, Debussy adopted a decorous, formally controlled style that looked back to the aristocratic poise of the French Baroque. With this unexpected swerve, he was following the advice he gave to his stepson, to “distrust the path that your ideas make you take.” As Walsh points out, Debussy’s self-distrust considerably slowed his productivity, as he tested “every chord and chord sequence, every rhythm, every colour for their precise effect.”

In the summer of 1915, Debussy embarked on a cycle of six sonatas for different groups of instruments—a telling gesture, since up to this point he had largely ignored the received forms of classical tradition. In a burst of creativity, he completed two of them in a matter of weeks: the Cello Sonata and the Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp. A Violin Sonata followed. He considered these works a “secret homage” to French soldiers fallen in battle. In a patriotic mood, he signed them “Claude Debussy, French musician.” They forecast the West’s turn toward neoclassicism in the postwar period, not least in Stravinsky’s ever-evolving, fashion-setting œuvre. Yet Debussy avoided intellectual irony or self-consciousness. He saw himself as restoring the beauty that had been destroyed in the war.

The Harmonia Mundi label has added to the welcome flood of Debussy on disk with its own Centenary Edition, and one of its finest offerings is a survey of those three sonatas. Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov play the Violin Sonata; Jean-Guihen Queyras and Javier Perianes undertake the Cello Sonata; and the flutist Magali Mosnier, the violist Antoine Tamestit, and the harpist Xavier de Maistre give a pristine performance of the sonata dedicated to their instruments.

That piece is sometimes so sparing in its application of notes to the page that it hardly seems to exist. The score contains such indications as “dying away” and “as delicately as possible.” This is music suffused with pale light; each terse, tender phrase seems aware of its own impermanence.

Debussy had found a new path—beyond Symbolism, beyond modernism. One can only wonder what might have followed, for his life came to a grim end. In 1915, he was given a diagnosis of rectal cancer and underwent an operation that had limited success. His final years were horrible. He suffered from incontinence and stopped leaving the house. He died as German forces were shelling Paris.

Afterward, his twelve-year-old daughter, called Chouchou, wrote a heartbreaking letter to her half-brother: “I saw him again one last time in that horrible box—He looked happy, oh so happy.” Chouchou died the following year, of diphtheria—a fate of which Debussy, blessedly, had no inkling. She may have been the only person he ever loved without reserve.

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Rachmaninoff: Moments Musicaux, Op.16

Rachmaninoff: Moments Musicaux, Op.16 (Ekaterina Litvintseva, piano)

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Ekaterina Litvintseva, piano

00:00 – No.1, Andantino, Bb min 06:55 – No.2, Allegro, Eb min 10:05 – No.3, Andante cantabile, B min 17:26 – No.4, Presto, E min 20:37 – No.5, Adagio sostenuto, Db maj 24:32 – No.6, Maestoso, C maj

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Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Sergei Rachmaninoff Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff was born in Russia to a musical family and started learning the piano from a young age. He start composing as a teenager, studied initially at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and then graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892. Most of his compositions were composed and performed in Russia where he was influenced by Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky. Some of Rachmaninoff’s early works received critical acclaim. However the premier of his First Symphony was something of a disaster, resulting in poor reviews from music critics. The composer took it badly and suffered from depression, and it was several years before he composed his 2nd symphony which was better received. After the Russian revolution of 1917 during which his family estate at Ivanovka was vandalised he left the country with his family initially for Scandinavia, but with war spreading across much of Europe he then moved to the United States (where he had already gained some popularity after touring the country). In the US he was primarily based in New York City and refocussed his career as a pianist and conductor earning a living as a recording artist and touring celebrity.

He met many other musicians and became friends with Vladimir Horowitz, another Russian pianist who settled in the US. Because of his performing career his output as a composer slowed considerably during this period, but he still managed to compose some of his best work (helped by a brief relocation to Switzerland) including his 3rd Symphony and his “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”. Back in the US during WWII and in declining health he moved to the warmer climate of California in 1942 but died the following year shortly after becoming an American citizen.

Sergei Rachmaninoff Although he lived well into the 20th century, in terms of compositional style Rachmaninoff is best described as a Late Romantic composer. His music often sounds Russian and the influence of Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Balakirev is clear. The Romanticism of his sound is also clear in some of the lushly scored melodies of his Symphonies and Concertos. His Piano Concerto No.2 composed in 1901 became especially popular and it was used in the film “Brief Encounter” in 1945 (expertly played by Australian pianist Eileen Joyce), and later it formed the basis of the song “All by Myself” by Eric Carmen (who also borrowed Rachmaninoff’s music in the song “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again”).

These romantic and nostalgic qualities undoubtedly helped to secure his popularity among listeners, although the downside is that his popularity (and traditional style) was initially looked down upon in the world of classical music. However Rachmaninoff’s reputation as a composer is now very much intact with his mastery of counterpoint particularly evident, and even his First Symphony is now better regarded. Despite his “late romantic” label there are aspects of Rachmaninoff’s music which push into the Modern era, such as his complex harmonies and chromaticism, and the bold way in which he adapted established forms.

Sergei Rachmaninov: 24 Preludes, Sonata No.2, pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy - CD cover A few years before “Brief Encounter” Rachmaninoff was asked by the makers of the film “Dangerous Moonlight” to write a concerto-like piece. When the composer declined the job fell to Richard Addinsell who then wrote the “Warsaw Concerto”. However Rachmaninoff’s music plays a significant role in other films. The famous 18th Variation from his “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” plays a key role in the film “Somewhere In Time”, and Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day” uses his endless time to also learn this 18th Paganini Variation to impress his love interest.

In the film “Shine” (based on true events), the pianist David Helfgott enters a Piano Competition and chooses to play the difficult 3rd Piano Concerto. In addition to his legacy as a composer, Rachmaninov left a number of paper rolls and recordings which (desite their being from an early period of recording technology) demonstrate his talents as a pianist.

Rachmaninoff’s music:

Rachmaninoff composed a number of purely orchestral works including a total of 3 symphonies. However he is best known for his piano works, both those for solo piano and also those for piano and orchestra such as his Piano Concertos and his famous Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. His piano music is regarded as difficult to play (with one of the difficulties arising from his legendary big hands) but is now very much part of the concert repertoire.

  • 3 Symphonies
  • Symphonic Poems – including “Caprice Bohémien”, “The Rock” and “Isle of the Dead”
  • Choral Symphony: The Bells – which quotes the Dies Irae
  • Symphonic Dances
  • 4 Piano Concertos
  • Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini – this is structured as a set of Variations for piano and orchestra (other composers such as Brahms have also composed variations on Paganini’s famous theme)
  • Variations on a Theme of Chopin
  • Variations on a Theme of Corelli
  • Piano: Morceaux de Fantaisie Op.3 – a piano suite which includes his first and most famous Prelude, the Prelude in C-sharp Minor (Op.3 No.2)
  • Piano: 23 further Preludes – a group of 10 preludes Op.23 and a group of 13 preludes Op.32 (here is the Prelude in G Minor Op.23 No.5)
  • Piano: Morceau de Fantaisie in G minor – subtitled “Delmo”
  • 2 Piano Sonatas
  • Piano: 2 sets of “Études-Tableaux” Op.33 & Op.39
  • Piano: Morceaux de Salon
  • Piano: 6 Moments Musicaux
  • Various other pieces for Piano Solo or Piano Duet
  • Piano Transcriptions of various Orchestral Works by other composers
  • Some Chamber Music – with the exception of a String Quartet, these are mostly for strings and piano
  • Many Songs – including the wordless “Vocalise”
  • Some Operas – including “Aleko” (which won an award as his graduation piece from the Moscow Conservatory), “The Miserly Knight” and “Francesca da Rimini”
  • Other Choral Works
  • Religious works for the Russian Orthodox Church such as “Liturgy of St John Chrysostom” and “All Night Vigil”

Rachmaninoff Recommendations:

Here are some recommended recordings of Rachmaninoff’s music:

  • Piano Concertos 1 to 4 (Double CD) played by Vladimir Ashkenazy, with Andre Previn conducting the London Syphony Orchestra – good value by excellent interpreters at or
  • Symphonies 1 to 3, Symphonic Dances, The Bells, The Isle of the Dead (Triple CD) with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra – more great value with Ashkenazy this time as conductor or
  • 24 Preludes, Piano Sonata No.2 (Double CD) pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy – Ashkenazy playing solo piano works or
  • Piano Concerto No.2, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, pianist Lang Lang, conductor Valery Gergiev – a different interpreter or
  • Piano Concertos 1-4, Symphonies 1-3, Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, and several other Piano and Orchestral works (7 CD Box Set) pianist Nikolai Lugansky, with Andre Previn conducting the London Syphony Orchestra – again great value by excellent interpreters at or
  • Études-Tableaux (complete) Op.33 & Op.39, pianist Nikolai Lugansky – (not included in above Box Set) at or
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“Tempest” Beethoven’s Sonata No.17 in D Minor, (Korstick) with sheet music

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Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.17 in D Minor, “Tempest” (Korstick, piano) with sheet music

Michael Korstick, piano

00:00 Mvt 1 – 07:59 Mvt 2 – 18:06 Mvt 3
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Piano Sonata No. 17 (Beethoven)

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Beethoven in 1801

The Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2, was composed in 1801–02 by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is usually referred to as The Tempest (or Der Sturm in his native German), but the sonata was not given this title by Beethoven, or indeed referred to as such during his lifetime.

The name comes from a reference to a personal conversation with Beethoven by his associate Anton Schindler in which Schindler reports that Beethoven suggested, in passing response to his question about interpreting it and Op. 57, the Appassionata sonata, that he should read Shakespeare‘s Tempest; some however have suggested that Beethoven may have been referring to the works of C. C. Sturm, the preacher and author best known for his Reflections on the Works of God in Nature, a copy of which he owned and, indeed, had heavily annotated. Although much of Schindler’s information is distrusted by classical music scholars, this is a first-hand account unlike any other that any scholar reports. The British music scholar Donald Francis Tovey says in A Companion to Beethoven’s Pianoforte Sonatas:

With all the tragic power of its first movement the D minor Sonata is, like Prospero, almost as far beyond tragedy as it is beyond mere foul weather. It will do you no harm to think of Miranda at bars 31–38 of the slow movement… but people who want to identify Ariel and Caliban and the castaways, good and villainous, may as well confine their attention to the exploits of Scarlet Pimpernel when the Eroica or the C minor Symphony is being played (pg. 121).


The piece consists of three movements and takes approximately twenty-five minutes to perform:

  1. LargoAllegro
  2. Adagio (B♭ major)
  3. Allegretto

Each of the movements is in sonata form, though the second lacks a substantial development section.

First movement


The first movement alternates brief moments of seeming peacefulness with extensive passages of turmoil, after some time expanding into a haunting “storm” in which the peacefulness is lost. This musical form is unusual among Beethoven sonatas to that date. Concerning the time period and style, it was thought of as an odd thing to write (a pianist’s skills were demonstrated in many ways, and showing changes in tone, technique and tempo efficiently many times in one movement was one of them). The development begins with rolled, long chords, quickly ending to the tremolo theme of the exposition.

There is a long recitative section at the beginning of this movement’s recapitulation (foreshadowing the oboe recitative in the first movement of Symphony No. 5), again ending with fast and suspenseful passages that resolve to the home key of D minor.

Second movement


The second movement in B♭ major is slower and more dignified. The rising melodic ideas in the opening six measures are reminiscent of the first movement’s recitative. Other ideas in this movement mirror the first, for instance, a figure in the eighth measure and parallel passages of the second movement are similar to a figure in measure 6 of the first.

Third movement


The third movement is also in sonata form and is back in the home key of D minor. It is at first flowing with emotion and then reaching a climax, before moving into an extended development section which mainly focuses on the opening figure of the movement, reaching a climax at measures 169–173. The recapitulation, which is preceded by an extensive cadenza-like passage of sixteenth notes for the right hand, is followed by another transition and then another statement of the primary theme. The refrain undergoes phrase expansion to build tension for the climax of the movement at measure 381, a fortissimo falling chromatic scale.

A lecture by András Schiff on Beethoven’s piano sonata Op. 31, No. 2

Piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven

Early sonatasNo. 1 in F minor No. 2 in A major No. 3 in C major No. 4 in E♭ major (Grand Sonata) No. 5 in C minor No. 6 in F major No. 7 in D major No. 8 in C minor (Pathétique) No. 9 in E major No. 10 in G major No. 11 in B♭ major No. 12 in A♭ major (Funeral March) No. 13 in E♭ major No. 14 in C♯ minor (Moonlight) No. 15 in D major (Pastoral) No. 19 in G minor and No. 20 in G major
Middle sonatasNo. 16 in G major No. 17 in D minor (The Tempest) No. 18 in E♭ major (The Hunt) No. 21 in C major (Waldstein) Andante favori No. 22 in F major No. 23 in F minor (Appassionata) No. 24 in F♯ major (À Thérèse) No. 25 in G major No. 26 in E♭ major (Les adieux) No. 27 in E minor
Late sonatasNo. 28 in A major No. 29 in B♭ major (Hammerklavier) No. 30 in E major No. 31 in A♭ major No. 32 in C minor
DuoSonata in D major for piano four-hands, Op. 6
Unnumbered (WoO)Three Piano Sonatas, WoO 47 Piano Sonata in C major, WoO. 51 (fragmentary)
Doubtful (Anh.)Sonatina in G major, Anh. 5, No. 1 Sonatina in F major, Anh. 5, No. 2

Michael Korstick

Michael Korstick (born April 30, 1955 in Cologne, Germany) is a German pianist.

Michael Korstick Interview: Beethoven as the fixed star of my musical universe for

From time to time during the Beethoven year the team of Henle blog posters would like to interview artists who have made a special contribution to Beethoven’s work and are also closely affiliated with the Henle publishing house and its Urtext editions.

We are starting with Michael Korstick who recorded Beethoven’s piano works in 11 instalments for Oehms Classic in 1997–2008, including all 32 piano sonatas, the great variation sets opp. 34, 35, 120, the late bagatelles op. 126, together with the ‘Wut über den verlorenen Groschen [Rage over the lost penny]’. A truly impressive recording compendium that set new standards of interpreting Beethoven.

Norbert Müllemann (NM): Dear Mr Korstick, we are still at the start of the Beethoven Jubilee Year – are you anticipating the next 11 months with joy or with horror?

Michael Korstick (MK): A good question … the answer is probably somewhere in-between. Of course, we can’t hear enough Beethoven, that much is certain. Only I fear that instead of a worthwhile anniversary celebration, a marketing orgy will befall us, bringing with it a lot of superfluous and annoying things. I don’t like to think about how many new recordings are being marketed, which the world doesn’t need, offering zero insight. On the other hand, I see this as an opportunity, that the enormous media impact of this anniversary may possibly enable many people initially to come in contact with this great music, such an opportunity as would not have otherwise existed. I personally had planned not to play Beethoven at all in 2020 out of a spirit of contrariness and pure stubbornness, though (unfortunately?) I could not hold out there.

NM: That’s if anything, good news, of course, for us consumers! What does Beethoven mean to you and how important is his music in your repertoire?

MK: From the outset Beethoven was the fixed star of my musical universe. I can still well remember what the first encounters with every single work triggered in me as a very young guy. To call this earth-shaking would be a flat understatement! To this day, dealing with Beethoven’s works has remained for me a crucial concern.

NM: I think we can tell this from your playing! The critics were indeed very enthusiastic about your great Beethoven project at Oehms. We feel like we’re hearing a “new” Beethoven tone, and yet it is always one that necessarily results logically from the music itself. Were you guided by a basic concept in your recording? Did you have a goal in mind as to how you wanted to present Beethoven to us?

MK: That’s extremely difficult to answer. And any attempt at an answer opens the door to serious misunderstandings. For example, after several interviews about it, my strategy was reduced, almost single-dimensionally, to addressing the aspect of so-called fidelity to the work. Through my own source research, I did, of course, try to approach as closely as possible the sense of what Beethoven meant, but in the end it can’t and shouldn’t be simply a matter of referencing something identified as correct, so to speak, but the result of such efforts must be to recognise what is “right”, to feel it and then to transform it creatively into sound. To paraphrase Beethoven’s dictum, the performer must recognise what comes from the composer’s heart before he uses his lifeblood to touch the listener’s heart. Then, there is no room for arbitrariness or blethering sensitivities!

NM: G. Henle Verlag is very pleased that you are currently working on fingering Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas for our Henle Library app. What are the particular challenges in developing a Beethoven fingering? Will it be specifically tailored to Michael Korstick, or do you have a pedagogical approach to fingering that is easy for the average pianist to assimilate?

MK: This project is particularly exciting for me because it uses a new medium that radically changes the fingering requirements for a classic printed edition, if only because in the app the user can choose from several fingerings for the same piece. Conrad Hansen’s fingering for B. A. Wallner’s iconic Henle edition has successfully achieved what I would call the squaring of the circle, and I’m not saying that because I was a second-generation pupil of Hansen’s through my first teacher Jürgen Troester. Here is a fingering, successfully tried out by Hansen in practice, that complies on the one hand with the classical rules, and is suitable on the other for a large number of different hands. The pioneering Henle app, though, now enables me to make my personal solutions accessible, one-on-one, to interested pianists without my having to be concerned about its pedagogical suitability. That’s why I see my personal fingerings as nothing more than merely a source of information for fellow pianists wanting to know which solutions I myself use, and who can then check my recordings to hear how the sound is thereby implemented.

NM: Let’s get to the music text itself, whether on an app or in print: How important is it to you to play Beethoven from an Urtext edition (ideally from Henle…)? Does a correct Urtext without any instructive indications still provide enough suggestions for interpretation?

MK: For Beethoven there is no alternative to the Urtext! He was the first composer to leave precise, almost overly precise, performance indications, because to him it was important to specify every expressive detail for the player. Those of the Mozart generation still assumed that their works would be played by either the respective composer’s direct students or by fellow composers who would already know what was intended. Beethoven, on the other hand, was an innovator and individualist who precisely specified his personal and revolutionary style as if anticipating that his works would someday fall into the hands of “touring virtuosos”. I myself got to know the Beethoven sonatas from the Bülow edition, brought back by my father who was interned in the United States during the Second World War. When I won 1st prize in the “Jugend musiziert” [Youth Makes Music] competition in Cologne at age 11, the prize I received was a music voucher of 200 marks which I used for the purchase of the Henle editions of Bach’s well-tempered clavier, the Mozart sonatas and the Beethoven sonatas. This completely changed my musical world view! So-called instructive indications such as are included in the Bülow or Schnabel Beethoven editions may be interesting or even inspiring, but they cannot replace or even improve on what the composer specifies. Only exact adherence to the Urtext editions can be a prerequisite for a personal interpretation of the musical text. Since it is already difficult enough to implement meaningfully all the composer’s individual performance instruction, no one needs additional or even modifying annotations.

NM: If you look at all the Beethoven piano works, is there one that offers outstanding or particularly difficult textual problems, where an Urtext edition is vital for providing the necessary information for the performer?

MK: Urtext editions are basically indispensable! And publishers have a standing responsibility here to continue research and to revise any possible editorial errors. A wonderful example: whilst preparing for my CD recording of the Diabelli variations in 2004, I found a mistake in the 10th variation during my studies in the Bonn Beethoven-Haus archives, which had led to different readings of a chord in all the editions available at the time, none of them correct. On the CD I played my own solution. I found this error corrected just so in the new Henle edition, which filled me with a veritable personal satisfaction. It isn’t signficant, of course, which notes you play but how you play them – though if artistic inspiration is combined with optimal textual accuracy, then perhaps the best of both worlds can really be achieved.

NM: A fine closing word! Dear Mr Korstick, thank you for this interview. We are very much looking forward to your fingering in the app and wish you the very best for your projects in the Beethoven Year!

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Debussy – Prélude VIII La fille aux cheveux de lin avec partition (sheet music)

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Debussy – Prélude VIII La fille aux cheveux de lin avec partition (sheet music)

La Fille aux cheveux de lin

debussy sheet music score download partitura partition spartiti

La Fille aux cheveux de lin est une composition musicale de Claude Debussy. Il s’agit de la huitième pièce du premier livre de Préludes (1909-1910) de Debussy. Ce morceau compte trente-neuf mesures et dure environ deux minutes et trente secondes. Il s’agit d’un des morceaux les plus enregistrés de Debussy, tant dans sa version originale pour piano que dans divers arrangements comme pour guitare, pour quatuor à cordes, pour orchestre entier ou encore pour quatuor de saxophones. Le morceau est en sol bémol majeur.

C’est le pianiste Franz Liebich qui a joué pour la première fois La Fille aux cheveux de lin en public, le 2 juin 1910 au Wigmore Hall de Londres.

Il existe également une chanson de Debussy écrite autour de 1882, qu’il n’a pas publiée, et qui porte le même titre. Le morceau est dédié à la chanteuse, Marie Blanche Vasnier, une femme de treize ans l’aînée de Debussy dont il s’était épris. Pour lui prouver tout son amour, il mit en musique de nombreux poèmes de Leconte de Lisle, Théophile Gautier ou encore Théodore de Banville. La Fille aux cheveux de lin est donc la mise en mélodie du poème de Leconte de Lisle tiré des Chansons écossaises de ses Poèmes antiques, publiés par Alphonse Lemerre à Paris en 1874.

Alfred Cortot écrit de ce prélude que c’est « une tendre paraphrase de la chanson écossaise de Leconte de Lisle qui dit le charme et la douceur de la lointaine amoureuse, sur la luzerne en fleur assise »

Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy est un compositeur français né le 22 août 1862 à Saint-Germain-en-Laye et mort le 25 mars 1918 à Paris.

En posant en 1894 avec Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un faune le premier jalon de la musique moderne, Debussy place d’emblée son œuvre sous le sceau de l’avant-garde musicale. Il est brièvement wagnérien en 1889, puis anticonformiste le reste de sa vie, en rejetant tous les académismes esthétiques. Avec La Mer, il renouvelle la forme symphonique ; avec Jeux, il inscrit la musique pour ballet dans un modernisme prophétique ; avec Pelléas et Mélisande, l’opéra français sort des ornières de la tradition du drame lyrique, tandis qu’il confère à la musique de chambre, avec son quatuor à cordes et son trio, des accents impressionnistes inspirés.

Une part importante de son œuvre est pour le piano (la plus vaste de la musique française avec celle de Gabriel Fauré) et utilise une palette sonore particulièrement riche et évocatrice.

Claude Debussy laisse l’image d’un créateur original et profond d’une musique où souffle le vent de la liberté. Son impact sera décisif dans l’histoire de la musique. Pour André Boucourechliev, il incarnerait la véritable révolution musicale du vingtième siècle.

Téléchargez les meilleures partitions dès notre bibliothèque.

Deux ans après la mort de Claude Debussy, Henry Prunières, directeur de la Revue musicale, sollicite dix compositeurs afin de former un « hommage international à la mémoire de Debussy [qui] sera un véritable « monument » comme ceux que les poètes de la Renaissance élevaient aux artistes qu’ils avaient aimés » : le Tombeau de Claude Debussy est publié le 1er décembre 1920 et créé l’année suivante dans le cadre des concerts de la Société musicale indépendante.


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Prelude in C Major BWV 846 (Guitar arr.) with sheet music from The Well-Tempered Klavier: Book 1

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Prelude in C Major BWV 846 (Guitar arr.) with sheet music from The Well-Tempered Klavier: Book 1

Download the best sheet music from our Library.

prelude guitar bach free sheet music & scores pdf download

The Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 846, is a keyboard composition written by Johann Sebastian Bach. It is the first prelude and fugue in the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier, a series of 48 preludes and fugues by the composer. An early version of the prelude, BWV 846A, is found in the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach.

The Well-Tempered Clavier, BWV 846–893, is a collection of two sets of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, composed for solo keyboard by Johann Sebastian Bach. In Bach’s time Clavier (keyboard) was a generic name indicating a variety of keyboard instruments, most typically a harpsichord or clavichord – but not excluding an organ.

The modern German spelling for the collection is Das wohltemperierte Klavier. Bach gave the title Das Wohltemperirte Clavier to a book of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, dated 1722, composed “for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study”. Some 20 years later Bach compiled a second book of the same kind, which became known as The Well-Tempered Clavier, Part Two (in German: Zweyter Theil, modern spelling: Zweiter Teil).

Modern editions usually refer to both parts as The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I (WTC I) and The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II (WTC II), respectively. The collection is generally regarded as being among the most important works in the history of classical music.

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John Field ‒ 18 Nocturnes (with sheet music)

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John Field ‒ 18 Nocturnes (with sheet music)

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Performed by Benjamin Frith

Track List

00:00​ – Nocturne No. 1 in E-flat Major, H 24 03:54​ – Nocturne No. 2 in C minor, H 25 07:36​ – Nocturne No. 3 in A-flat Major, H 26 12:30​ – Nocturne No. 4 in A Major, H 36 18:03​ – Nocturne No. 5 in B-flat Major, H 37

20:58​ – Nocturne No. 6 “Cradle Song” in F Major, H 40 26:05​ – Nocturne No. 7 in C Major, H 45 31:22​ – Nocturne No. 8 in A Major, H 14 35:48​ – Nocturne No. 9 “Romance” in E-flat Major, H 30 39:50​ – Nocturne No. 10 in E minor, H 46 43:02​ – Nocturne No. 11 in E-flat Major, H 56

49:36​ – Nocturne No. 12 in G Major, H 58 52:05​ – Nocturne No. 13 “Dernière Pensée” in D minor , H 59 55:52​ – Nocturne No. 14 in C Major, H 60 1:04:50​ – Nocturne No. 15 in C Major, H 61 1:10:01​ – Nocturne No. 16 in F Major, H 62 1:14:57​ – Nocturne No. 17 in E Major, H 13 1:26:00​ – Nocturne No. 18 “Midi” in E Major , H 54

John Field

John Field (26 July 1782 – 23 January 1837) was an Irish pianist, composer, and teacher. Field is best known as the inventor of the nocturne, but there is evidence to suggest that this is a posthumous accolade. He is mentioned in passing in War and Peace when Countess Rostova calls on the Rostov household musician to play her favourite nocturne.

He was born in Dublin into a musical family, and received his early education there, in particular with the immigrant Tommaso Giordani. The Fields soon moved to London, where Field studied under Muzio Clementi. Under his tutelage, Field quickly became a famous and sought-after concert pianist. Together, master and pupil visited Paris, Vienna, and St. Petersburg. Ambiguity surrounds Field’s decision to remain in the former Russian capital, but it is likely that Field acted as a sales representative for the Clementi Pianos.

To the Irish pianist and composer John Field has been credited the invention of the nocturne, a form later adopted and developed by Chopin. Field was born in Dublin in 1782, the son of a violinist, but moved with his family to London in 1793, perhaps taking violin lessons from Haydn’s friend Salomon. He became an apprentice of Muzio Clementi, appearing in a series of important London concerts and later touring widely. He accompanied Clementi to Russia in furtherance of Clementi’s business activities as a piano manufacturer and remained in St Petersburg, where he became a fashionable teacher and performer, moving to Moscow in 1821. Illness brought him, in 1831, to London again, a visit followed by a continental tour and a final return to Moscow, where he died in 1837.

Music for Piano and Orchestra

Field wrote seven piano concertos, as well as one or two other compositions for piano and orchestra, a necessary contribution to his career as a performer. These works allowed him to give fuller play to technical brilliance in the piano writing.

Piano Music

Field’s music enjoyed considerable popularity throughout the 19th century. His nocturnes had clear influence on Chopin, Liszt, Fauré and other composers.

Field was very highly regarded by his contemporaries and his playing and compositions influenced many major composers, including Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, and Franz Liszt. Although little is known of Field in Russia, he undoubtedly contributed substantially to concerts and teaching, and to the development of the Russian piano school.

Notable students include Prussian pianist and composer Charles Mayer, the Franco-Russian composer Alexandre Dubuque, and Polish pianist and composer Antoine de Kontski.

John Field, the greatest Irish musical figure of the Romantic era, developed a highly influential keyboard style. John Field has been ascribed for the invention of the Nocturne. John Field was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1782, the eldest son of Irish parents who were members of the protestant Church of Ireland. John Field was a child prodigy, who made his musical debut at nine years of age. He was born into a musical family and received his first musical training from his father Robert Field and grandfather also called John Field both made their living as musicians. He later went on to study with Tommaso Giordani.

When his family moved to London, he became an apprentice to composer/piano manufacturer Muzio Cl enti. He continued to work for Muzio Cl enti even as his popularity as a soloist increased and be became in d and in London,. His collaboration with Muzio ended in St. Petersburg Russia, there he was able to establish an independent musical career for himself. With the help of Russian General Marklovsky, who with his influential contacts, sponsored his stay in Russia. In Russia, he became an admired teacher and performer. He married one of his students and was a father to four children.

He would remain in Russia for the rest of his life, where he achieved remarkable success as both pianist and composer. He was a phenomenal artist despite suffering from alcoholism and finally succumbing to cancer in Moscow at the age of fifty-five. His legacy is as an influential figure in Romantic piano composition. John Field influenced many as he created a trad ark keyboard style at a time when piano music was demonstrated by forms and genres like the sonata, theme and variations, fantasia, rondo, and fugue. He paved the way for generations of Romantic era composers. He influenced many great musicians like Brahms, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin, all of whom were grateful to John Field.

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Rachmaninoff – Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 3rd mov. Adagio (Advanced piano solo) & sheet music

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Rachmaninoff – Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 3rd mov. Adagio (Advanced piano solo) with sheet music

rachmaninoff free sheet music & pdf scores download

Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff (Russian: Серге́й Васи́льевич Рахма́нинов, born 1 April [O.S. 20 March] 1873 – 28 March 1943) was a Russian composer, virtuoso pianist, and conductor of the late Romantic period. The influence of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, and other Russian composers is seen in his early works, later giving way to a personal style notable for song-like melodicism, expressiveness and rich orchestral colours.

Born into a musical family, Rachmaninoff took up the piano at the age of four. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892, having already composed several piano and orchestral pieces. In 1897, following the negative critical reaction to his Symphony No. 1, Rachmaninoff entered a four-year depression and composed little until successful therapy allowed him to complete his enthusiastically received Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1901. In the course of the next sixteen years, Rachmaninoff conducted at the Bolshoi Theatre, relocated to Dresden, Germany, and toured the United States for the first time. Rachmaninoff often featured the piano in his compositions, and he explored the expressive possibilities of the instrument through his own skills as a pianist.

Following the Russian Revolution, Rachmaninoff and his family left Russia. They settled in New York City in 1918. With his main source of income coming from piano and conducting performances, demanding tour schedules led to a reduction in his time for composition. Between 1918 and 1943, he completed just six works, including Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Symphony No. 3, and Symphonic Dances. By 1942, his failing health led to his relocation to Beverly Hills, California. One month before his death from advanced melanoma, Rachmaninoff was granted American citizenship.


Rachmaninoff sheet music

The cadenza of Piano Concerto No. 3 is famous for its grand chords.

Rachmaninoff wrote five works for piano and orchestra: four concertos—No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op. 1 (1891, revised 1917), No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 (1900–01), No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 (1909), and No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40 (1926, revised 1928 and 1941)—plus the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Of the concertos, the Second and Third are the most popular.[176]

Rachmaninoff also composed a number of works for orchestra alone. The three symphonies: No. 1 in D minor, Op. 13 (1895), No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 (1907), and No. 3 in A minor, Op. 44 (1935–36). Widely spaced chronologically, the symphonies represent three distinct phases in his compositional development. The Second has been the most popular of the three since its first performance. Other orchestral works include The Rock (Op. 7), Caprice bohémien (Op. 12), The Isle of the Dead (Op. 29), and the Symphonic Dances (Op. 45).

Works for piano solo include 24 Preludes traversing all 24 major and minor keys; Prelude in C-sharp minor (Op. 3, No. 2) from Morceaux de fantaisie (Op. 3); ten preludes in Op. 23; and thirteen in Op. 32. Especially difficult are the two sets of Études-Tableaux, Op. 33 and 39, which are very demanding study pictures. Stylistically, Op. 33 hearkens back to the preludes, while Op. 39 shows the influences of Scriabin and Prokofiev. There are also the Six moments musicaux (Op. 16), the Variations on a Theme of Chopin (Op. 22), and the Variations on a Theme of Corelli (Op. 42).

He wrote two piano sonatas, both of which are large scale and virtuosic in their technical demands. Rachmaninoff also composed works for two pianos, four hands, including two Suites (the first subtitled Fantasie-Tableaux), a version of the Symphonic Dances (Op. 45), and an arrangement of the C-sharp minor Prelude, as well as a Russian Rhapsody, and he arranged his First Symphony (below) for piano four hands. Both these works were published posthumously.

Rachmaninoff wrote two major a cappella choral works—the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the All-Night Vigil (also known as the Vespers). It was the fifth movement of All-Night Vigil that Rachmaninoff requested to have sung at his funeral. Other choral works include a choral symphony, The Bells; the cantata Spring; the Three Russian Songs; and an early Concerto for Choir (a cappella).

He completed three one-act operas: Aleko (1892), The Miserly Knight (1903), and Francesca da Rimini (1904). He started three others, notably Monna Vanna, based on a work by Maurice Maeterlinck; copyright in this had been extended to the composer Février, and, though the restriction did not pertain to Russia, Rachmaninoff dropped the project after completing Act I in piano vocal score in 1908; this act was orchestrated in 1984 by Igor Buketoff and performed in the U.S. Aleko is regularly performed and has been recorded complete at least eight times, and filmed. The Miserly Knight adheres to Pushkin’s “little tragedy”. Francesca da Rimini exists somewhat in the shadow of the opera of the same name by Riccardo Zandonai.

His chamber music includes two piano trios, both of which are named Trio Elégiaque (the second of which is a memorial tribute to Tchaikovsky), a Cello Sonata, and the Morceaux de salon for violin and piano. He also composed many songs for voice and piano, to texts by A. N. Tolstoy, Pushkin, Goethe, Shelley, Hugo and Chekhov, among others. Among his most popular songs is the wordless Vocalise.

Compositional style

Rachmaninoff sheet music

Rachmaninoff with a piano score

Rachmaninoff’s style was initially influenced by Tchaikovsky. By the mid-1890s, however, his compositions began showing a more individual tone. His First Symphony has many original features. Its brutal gestures and uncompromising power of expression were unprecedented in Russian music at the time. Its flexible rhythms, sweeping lyricism, and stringent economy of thematic material were all features he kept and refined in subsequent works.

Following the poor reception of the symphony and three years of inactivity, Rachmaninoff’s individual style developed significantly. He started leaning towards sumptuous harmonies and broadly lyrical, often passionate melodies. His orchestration became subtler and more varied, with textures carefully contrasted. Overall, his writing became more concise.

Especially important is Rachmaninoff’s use of unusually widely spaced chords for bell-like sounds: this occurs in many pieces, most notably in the choral symphony The Bells, the Second Piano Concerto, the E-flat major Étude-Tableaux (Op. 33, No. 7), and the B minor Prelude (Op. 32, No. 10). “It is not enough to say that the church bells of Novgorod, St Petersburg and Moscow influenced Rachmaninov and feature prominently in his music. This much is self-evident. What is extraordinary is the variety of bell sounds and breadth of structural and other functions they fulfill.”

He was also fond of Russian Orthodox chants. He used them most perceptibly in his Vespers, but many of his melodies found their origins in these chants. The opening melody of the First Symphony is derived from chants. (The opening melody of the Third Piano Concerto, on the other hand, is not derived from chants; when asked, Rachmaninoff said that “it had written itself”.)

Rachmaninoff’s frequently used motifs include the Dies Irae, often just the fragments of the first phrase. Rachmaninoff had great command of counterpoint and fugal writing, thanks to his studies with Taneyev. The above-mentioned occurrence of the Dies Irae in the Second Symphony (1907) is but a small example of this. Very characteristic of his writing is chromatic counterpoint.

This talent was paired with a confidence in writing in both large- and small-scale forms. The Third Piano Concerto especially shows a structural ingenuity, while each of the preludes grows from a tiny melodic or rhythmic fragment into a taut, powerfully evocative miniature, crystallizing a particular mood or sentiment while employing a complexity of texture, rhythmic flexibility and a pungent chromatic harmony.

His compositional style had already begun changing before the October Revolution deprived him of his homeland. The harmonic writing in The Bells was composed in 1913 but not published until 1920. This may have been due to Rachmaninoff’s main publisher, Gutheil, having died in 1914 and Gutheil’s catalog being acquired by Serge Koussevitsky. It became as advanced as in any of the works Rachmaninoff would write in Russia, partly because the melodic material has a harmonic aspect which arises from its chromatic ornamentation.

Further changes are apparent in the revised First Piano Concerto, which he finished just before leaving Russia, as well as in the Op. 38 songs and Op. 39 Études-Tableaux. In both these sets Rachmaninoff was less concerned with pure melody than with coloring. His near-Impressionist style perfectly matched the texts by symbolist poets. The Op. 39 Études-Tableaux are among the most demanding pieces he wrote for any medium, both technically and in the sense that the player must see beyond any technical challenges to a considerable array of emotions, then unify all these aspects.

The composer’s friend Vladimir Wilshaw noticed this compositional change continuing in the early 1930s, with a difference between the sometimes very extroverted Op. 39 Études-Tableaux (the composer had broken a string on the piano at one performance) and the Variations on a Theme of Corelli (Op. 42, 1931). The variations show an even greater textural clarity than in the Op. 38 songs, combined with a more abrasive use of chromatic harmony and a new rhythmic incisiveness.

This would be characteristic of all his later works—the Piano Concerto No. 4 (Op. 40, 1926) is composed in a more emotionally introverted style, with a greater clarity of texture. Nevertheless, some of his most beautiful (nostalgic and melancholy) melodies occur in the Third Symphony, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and Symphonic Dances.

Music theorist and musicologist Joseph Yasser, as early as 1951, uncovered progressive tendencies in Rachmaninoff’s compositions. He uncovered Rachmaninoff’s use of an intra-tonal chromaticism that stands in notable contrast to the inter-tonal chromaticism of Richard Wagner and strikingly contrasts the extra-tonal chromaticism of the more radical twentieth century composers like Arnold Schoenberg. Yasser postulated that a variable, subtle, but unmistakable characteristic use of this intra-tonal chromaticism permeated Rachmaninoff’s music.

Fluctuating reputation

His reputation as a composer generated a variety of opinions before his music gained steady recognition around the world. The 1954 edition of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians notoriously dismissed Rachmaninoff’s music as “monotonous in texture … consist[ing] mainly of artificial and gushing tunes” and predicted that his popular success was “not likely to last”. To this, Harold C. Schoenberg, in his Lives of the Great Composers, responded: “It is one of the most outrageously snobbish and even stupid statements ever to be found in a work that is supposed to be an objective reference.”

The Conservatoire Rachmaninoff in Paris, as well as streets in Veliky Novgorod (which is close to his birthplace) and Tambov, are named after the composer. In 1986, the Moscow Conservatory dedicated a concert hall on its premises to Rachmaninoff, designating the 252-seat auditorium Rachmaninoff Hall, and in 1999 the “Monument to Sergei Rachmaninoff” was installed in Moscow. A separate monument to Rachmaninoff was unveiled in Veliky Novgorod, near his birthplace, on 14 June 2009.

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Technique

Rachmaninoff ranked among the finest pianists of his time, along with Leopold Godowsky, Ignaz Friedman, Moriz Rosenthal, Josef Lhévinne, Ferruccio Busoni, and Josef Hofmann, and he was famed for possessing a clean and virtuosic technique. His playing was marked by precision, rhythmic drive, notable use of staccato and the ability to maintain clarity when playing works with complex textures. Rachmaninoff applied these qualities in music by Chopin, including the B-flat minor Piano Sonata. Rachmaninoff’s repertoire, excepting his own works, consisted mainly of standard 19th century virtuoso works plus music by Bach, Beethoven, Borodin, Debussy, Grieg, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Tchaikovsky.

Rachmaninoff possessed extremely large hands, with which he could easily maneuver through the most complex chordal configurations. His left hand technique was unusually powerful. His playing was marked by definition—where other pianists’ playing became blurry-sounding from overuse of the pedal or deficiencies in finger technique, Rachmaninoff’s textures were always crystal clear.

Only Josef Hofmann and Josef Lhévinne shared this kind of clarity with him. All three men had Anton Rubinstein as a model for this kind of playing—Hofmann as a student of Rubinstein’s, Rachmaninoff from hearing his famous series of historical recitals in Moscow while studying with Zverev, and Lhevinne from hearing and playing with him.

The two pieces Rachmaninoff singled out for praise from Rubinstein’s concerts became cornerstones for his own recital programs. The compositions were Beethoven’s Appassionata and Chopin’s Funeral March Sonata. He may have based his interpretation of the Chopin sonata on that of Rubinstein. Rachmaninoff biographer Barrie Martyn points out similarities between written accounts of Rubinstein’s interpretation and Rachmaninoff’s audio recording of the work.

As part of his daily warm-up exercises, Rachmaninoff would play the technically difficult Étude in A-flat, Op. 1, No. 2, attributed to Paul de Schlözer.

From those barely moving fingers came an unforced, bronzelike sonority and an accuracy bordering on infallibility. Arthur Rubinstein wrote:

He had the secret of the golden, living tone which comes from the heart … I was always under the spell of his glorious and inimitable tone which could make me forget my uneasiness about his too rapidly fleeting fingers and his exaggerated rubatos. There was always the irresistible sensuous charm, not unlike Kreisler‘s.

Coupled to this tone was a vocal quality not unlike that attributed to Chopin’s playing. With Rachmaninoff’s extensive operatic experience, he was a great admirer of fine singing. As his records demonstrate, he possessed a tremendous ability to make a musical line sing, no matter how long the notes or how complex the supporting texture, with most of his interpretations taking on a narrative quality.

With the stories he told at the keyboard came multiple voices—a polyphonic dialogue, not the least in terms of dynamics. His 1940 recording of his transcription of the song “Daisies” captures this quality extremely well. On the recording, separate musical strands enter as if from various human voices in eloquent conversation. This ability came from an exceptional independence of fingers and hands.

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Tchaikovsky Waltz From The Sleeping Beauty Suite (Rachmaninoff Four Hands piano ver.) sheet music

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Tchaikovsky mini bio

Pyotr (Peter) Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840, in Votkinsk, Vyatka region, Russia. He was the second of six children (five brothers and one sister). His father, named Ilya Chaikovsky, was a mining business executive in Votkinsk. His father’s ancestors were from Ukraine and Poland. His mother, named Aleksandra Assier, was of Russian and French ancestry.

Tchaikovsky played piano since the age of 5, he also enjoyed his mother’s playing and singing. He was a sensitive and emotional child, and became deeply traumatized by the death of his mother of cholera, in 1854. At that time he was sent to a boarding school in St. Petersburg. He graduated from the St. Petersburg School of Law in 1859, then worked for 3 years at the Justice Department of Russian Empire. In 1862-1865 he studied music under Anton Rubinstein at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In 1866-1878 he was a professor of theory and harmony at the Moscow Conservatory.

At that time he met Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz, who visited Russia with concert tours. During that period Tchaikovsky wrote his first ballet ‘The Swan Lake’, opera ‘Eugene Onegin’, four Symphonies, and the brilliant Piano Concerto No1.

As a young man Tchaikovsky suffered traumatic personal experiences. He was sincerely attached to a beautiful soprano, named Desiree Artot, but their engagement was destroyed by her mother and she married another man. His homosexuality was causing him a painful guilt feeling. In 1876 he wrote to his brother, Modest, about his decision to “marry whoever will have me.” One of his admirers, a Moscow Conservatory student Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova, was persistently writing him love letters.

She threatened to take her life if Tchaikovsky didn’t marry her. Their brief marriage in the summer of 1877 lasted only a few weeks and caused him a nervous breakdown. He even made a suicide attempt by throwing himself into a river. In September of 1877 Tchaikovsky separated from Milyukova. She eventually ended up in an insane asylum, where she spent over 20 years and died. They never saw each other again. Although their marriage was terminated legally, Tchaikovsky generously supported her financially until his death.

Tchaikovsky was ordered by the doctors to leave Russia until his emotional health was restored. He went to live in Europe for a few years. Tchaikovsky settled together with his brother, Modest, in a quiet village of Clarens on Lake Geneva in Switzerland and lived there in 1877-1878. There he wrote his very popular Violin Concerto in D.

He also completed his Symphony No.4, which was inspired by Russian folk songs, and dedicated it to Nadezhda von Meck. From 1877 to 1890 Tchaikovsky was financially supported by a wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck, who also supported Claude Debussy. She loved Tchaikovsky’s music and became his devoted pen-friend. They exchanged over a thousand letters in 14 years; but they never met, at her insistence. In 1890 she abruptly terminated all communication and support, claiming bankruptcy.

Tchaikovsky played an important role in the artistic development of Sergei Rachmaninoff. They met in 1886, when Rachmaninov was only 13 years old, and studied the music of Tchaikovsky under the tutelage of their mutual friend, composer Aleksandr Zverev. Tchaikovsky was the member of the Moscow conservatory graduation board.

He joined many other musicians in recommendation that Rachmaninov was to be awarded the Gold Medal in 1892. Later Tchaikovsky was involved in popularization of Rachmaninov’s graduation work, opera ‘Aleko’. Upon Tchaikovsky’s promotion Rachmaninov’s opera “Aleko” was included in the repertory and performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

In 1883-1893 Tchaikovsky wrote his best Symphonies No.5 and No.6, ballets ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘The Nutcracker’, operas ‘The Queen of Spades’ and ‘Iolanta’. In 1888-1889, he made a successful conducting tour of Europe, appearing in Prague, Leipzig, Hamburg, Paris, and London. In 1891, he went on a two month tour of America, where he gave concerts in New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. In May of 1891 Tchaikovsky was the conductor on the official opening night of Carnegie Hall in New York.

He was a friend of Edvard Grieg and Antonín Dvorák. In 1892 he heard Gustav Mahler conducting his opera ‘Eugene Onegin’ in Hamburg. Tchaikovsky himself conducted the premiere of his Symphony No.6 in St. Petersburg, Russia, on the 16th of October, 1893. A week later he died of cholera after having a glass of tap water. He was laid to rest in the Necropolis of Artists at St. Aleksandr Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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Aaron Copland (1900-1990)- El Salón México Piano solo with sheet music (partitura)

Aaron Copland – El Salón México Piano solo with sheet music (partitura)

aaron copland free sheet music & scores pdf download

El Salón México

El Salón México is a symphonic composition in one movement by Aaron Copland, which uses Mexican folk music extensively. Copland visited Mexico several times in the 1930s. The four melodies of the piece are based on sheet music he purchased during his visits.

The dance hall

The work is a musical depiction of a dance hall in Mexico City called “El Salón México”, which, as its name implies, represents the country of Mexico, with multiple types of music played. The subtitle was “A Popular Type Dance Hall in Mexico City.”

Copland observed that he despaired of the ability to portray, or even understand, the complexity that is Mexico. He continues to say that what he wrote, and what he knew he was writing, was a portrayal of the “visible” Mexico, to some extent the touristy Mexico. He chose dance as the vehicle for his musical portrayal.

Although Copland wrote in his autobiography that he had been taken to “El Salón México” by Carlos Chávez, he also learned of it from a guidebook:

Perhaps my piece might never have been written if it hadn’t been for the existence of the Salón México. I remember reading about it for the first time in a tourist guide book: “Harlem-type nightclub for the peepul [ sic in the original ], grand Cuban orchestra. Three halls: one for people dressed in your way, one for people dressed in overalls but shod, and one for the barefoot.” When I got there, I also found a sign on the wall which said: “Please don’t throw lighted cigarette butts on the floor so the ladies don’t burn their feet.”

…In some inexplicable way, while milling about in those crowded halls, one really felt a live contact with the Mexican people — the atomic sense one sometimes gets in far-off places, of suddenly knowing the essence of a people — their humanity, their separate shyness, their dignity and unique charm.

El Salón México, at Pensador Mexicano 16, opened in 1920 and was the dance capital of Mexico City. For dance bands it was the leading venue in the capital and country, where a wide variety of tunes were played: waltz, foxtrot, tango, pasodoble, and the Cuban danzón; Cuban orchestras often played there, and one Cuban orchestra that appeared regularly wrote a danzón called “Salón México”. It was a place to dance and, it was said, smelled of sweat.

There was one entrance, but three doors off of it, where patrons sorted themselves by what kind of music and dances they wanted. It was a rare venue where rich, middle class, and poor all attended, with a famous sign, in the lower-class or “proletariat” room, where barefoot dancing was frequent, saying “Don’t throw cigarette butts on the floor because the ladies will burn their feet.”

The hall had murals, now lost, by Diego Rivera, Salvador Novo, Dolores Olmedo, and others. It closed in 1960.

The music

The work contains three musical styles and goes through the series of three twice, starting each time with the upper-class music, passing through a more vigorous working-class music, and ending with the foot-stomping dance of the peasantry.

Divisions between the sections are clear, as if one had walked through a doorway. The upper-class music suggests formal European dancing of the nineteenth century, unlyrical and even unmasculine. The peasant music is far richer rhythmically and more powerful, with a suggestion of the pre-Hispanic (Indian) in it. The work’s conclusion celebrates this kind of music, not that of the well-to-do. Musically, the work displays beautifully Copland’s populism.

History of the work

Copland began the work in 1932 and completed it in 1936. The Mexico Symphony Orchestra gave the first performance under the direction of Carlos Chávez in 1937. The piece was premiered in the U.S. in 1938.

Although Copland visited Mexico early in the 1930s, he based this tone poem not on songs he heard there, but rather on written sheet music for at least four Mexican folk songs that he had obtained: “El palo verde,” “La Jesusita,” “El mosco,” and “El malacate.” The powerful refrain that appears in the piece three times stems from “El palo verde.” Critics have variously described the piece as containing two, three, or four parts, but many listeners find that it moves seamlessly from one theme to another with no clear internal boundaries.

At least three arrangements of the piece exist in addition to the orchestral score. Copland adapted the work for the 1947 musical film Fiesta, directed by Richard Thorpe for MGM. Leonard Bernstein created arrangements for solo piano and for two pianos, four-hands very shortly after the premiere. In addition, a piano transcription of the score was made by conductor Arturo Toscanini in 1942, when the Maestro included the music on an NBC broadcast concert.

In 2006, Paul Glickman and Tamarind King started work on an animated short film based on the Aaron Copland score. In 2007 “El Salón México” received a New Mexico New Visions $20,000 work grant. In 2009 “El Salón México” debuted at The Film Museum Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The computer-animated short was accepted into the following film festivals: Rome International Film Festival (2009 winner, Sylvia Award for Best Animation), Independent’s Film Festival (2009 winner, Best Independent Animation), Santa Fe Film Festival, Kids First Film Festival, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and the Tiburon International Film Festival.

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Aunque pensamos que Copland es particularmente “americano”, debería ser en el sentido geográfico y cultural más amplio. Viajó extensamente, de Canadá a Argentina, y escribió y dio conferencias con frecuencia sobre fuentes musicales que van desde el blues rural hasta el frevo brasileño.

El primer viaje de Copland a México fue en 1932, a instancias de su amigo Carlos Chávez, el compositor y director de orquesta entonces la figura dominante en la música artística mexicana, y director nacional de Bellas Artes. Muy impresionado con el pueblo, la música y el gobierno revolucionario, Copland regresó varias veces en largas vacaciones de trabajo.

El primer producto de ese viaje inicial a México fue la Sinfonía Corta. El final de la Sinfonía incorpora elementos tradicionales que Copland había escuchado en su viaje. Chávez dirigió el estreno en la Ciudad de México en 1934.

Aunque se terminó más tarde, El Salón México fue otro recuerdo de ese viaje, y una obra fundamental en el uso que Copland hizo de la música folclórica/popular. La obra registra las experiencias de Copland en un salón de baile popular del mismo nombre, con trozos de auténticas canciones mexicanas que Copland encontró en antologías publicadas, mezcladas en una espumosa mezcla orquestal.
Copland completó la orquestación en 1936, y Chávez dirigió el estreno en Ciudad de México en 1937. El Salón México se escuchó por primera vez en Estados Unidos en una emisión de radio, con Adrian Boult al frente de la Sinfónica de la NBC en 1938.

Copland no tenía ilusiones sobre la profundidad de esta traducción musical. “Todo lo que podía esperar era reflejar el México de los turistas, porque en ese punto caliente[El Salón México] se sentía, de una manera muy natural y no afectada, un contacto cercano con el pueblo mexicano. No fue la música lo que escuché, sino el espíritu que sentí allí lo que me atrajo y lo que espero haber puesto en mi música”.

“Copland ha sintetizado aquí lo más característico de la melodía popular mexicana sin quitarle frescura y belleza”, escribió el crítico Baqueiro Forster sobre el estreno. “Ha compuesto música que encarna nuestra canción folclórica en su forma más pura y perfecta.”

Aunque pensamos que Copland es particularmente “americano”, debería ser en el sentido geográfico y cultural más amplio. Viajó extensamente, de Canadá a Argentina, y escribió y dio conferencias con frecuencia sobre fuentes musicales que van desde el blues rural hasta el frevo brasileño.

El primer viaje de Copland a México fue en 1932, a instancias de su amigo Carlos Chávez, el compositor y director de orquesta entonces la figura dominante en la música artística mexicana, y director nacional de Bellas Artes. Muy impresionado con el pueblo, la música y el gobierno revolucionario, Copland regresó varias veces en largas vacaciones de trabajo.

El primer producto de ese viaje inicial a México fue la Sinfonía Corta. El final de la Sinfonía incorpora elementos tradicionales que Copland había escuchado en su viaje. Chávez dirigió el estreno en la Ciudad de México en 1934.

Aunque se terminó más tarde, El Salón México fue otro recuerdo de ese viaje, y una obra fundamental en el uso que Copland hizo de la música folclórica/popular. La obra registra las experiencias de Copland en un salón de baile popular del mismo nombre, con trozos de auténticas canciones mexicanas que Copland encontró en antologías publicadas, mezcladas en una espumosa mezcla orquestal.
Copland completó la orquestación en 1936, y Chávez dirigió el estreno en Ciudad de México en 1937. El Salón México se escuchó por primera vez en Estados Unidos en una emisión de radio, con Adrian Boult al frente de la Sinfónica de la NBC en 1938.

Copland no tenía ilusiones sobre la profundidad de esta traducción musical. “Todo lo que podía esperar era reflejar el México de los turistas, porque en ese punto caliente[El Salón México] se sentía, de una manera muy natural y no afectada, un contacto cercano con el pueblo mexicano. No fue la música lo que escuché, sino el espíritu que sentí allí lo que me atrajo y lo que espero haber puesto en mi música”.

“Copland ha sintetizado aquí lo más característico de la melodía popular mexicana sin quitarle frescura y belleza”, escribió el crítico Baqueiro Forster sobre el estreno. “Ha compuesto música que encarna nuestra canción folclórica en su forma más pura y perfecta.”