The "piano without hammers": reconsidering Debussy's pianism
Hirakouji, Sachi Patricia
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Claude Debussy (1862-1918) is regarded as an originator of the radically new and innovative musical language that has come to be known as "Impressionism." His piano music, focused as it is on color and sonority, requires a vastly different approach to piano technique from that of piano literature in the past. Debussy worked with several notable pianists who performed his music, sharing with them insights into the music and piano technique from his perspective as a composer and a pianist. While Debussy gave relatively few performances of his music as a concertizing pianist, he was, in the opinion of many of his contemporaries, an accomplished pianist in his own right.Debussy's compositional activities have garnered the bulk of scholarly and critical attention to date. His aptitudes and achievements as a pianist have thus far not been studied in depth. This dissertation focuses on Debussy as a pianist, investigating his training and concertizing, and discusses the aspects of his technique and interpretation that emerge in the recollections and comments of those pianists he coached. Additional insights into technique and interpretation are gained through the analysis of the few piano rolls that Debussy recorded.A fresh assessment of Debussy's pianism, and his approach to technique and interpretation, may prove to be useful for all those who approach the performance, appreciation, and teaching of his music today.
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