Date: 25 September 2014, Thursday
Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: Le Quadri Ballroom, North wing campus
—- This lecture-recital has no intermission —-
Mostly Debussy: From Five to Eight Fingers
“Mostly Debussy” is a series of five piano lecture-recitals that lead up to year 2018, which will mark the 100th anniversary of Claude Debussy’s death. This concert series is an innovative approach to give the audience an added focus on the works of Debussy. Based on my research paper “Multiple Perspectives on Claude Debussy’s Douze Etudes”, I select three etudes as anchors for the each of the first four recitals. Each explores various tendencies in his piano repertoire, by juxtaposing relevant works by Debussy and other composers. The final lecture-recital in 2018 is a mixture of nostalgia and homages from the composer.
“From Five to Eight Fingers” is inspired from how the first volume of Claude Debussy’s Douze Etudes is bookended with the opening of Pour les ‘cinq doigts’ (For Five Fingers after Mr. Czerny), and the last piece Pour les huit doigts (For Eight Fingers), which offers a satisfying conclusion to the set, as the five-finger beginner finally grows into an eight-finger virtuoso who has climbed up the steps ad Parnassum. Paying homage was a natural response by Debussy, against the backdrop of two crises: on a national level, the First World War, and on a personal level, the composer’s struggle with rectal cancer. In dealing with crises, Debussy eventually found comfort by revisiting France’s musical past and childhood, settings remote from the present. Among the twelve etudes, Pour les ‘cinq doigts’ après Monsieur Czerny, Pour les huit doigts, Pour les agréments (For Ornaments) are the three that most strongly reflect Debussy’s response to his crises. Each looks back to a distant past, either to the eighteenth century Claveçinistes, or an evocation of childhood. Just as Pour les agréments can be better understood by considering the claveçin aesthetics, so the pianistic approach of Pour les huit doigts can be traced to the convention of harpsichord playing. Huit doigts alludes to Claveçinistes’ frequent usage of eight fingers and their rare imployment of the thumbs.
Pieces (with narration in-between)
- L’art de toucher le claveçin: Premier Prélude — by François Couperin
- Gradus ad Parnassum No. 16: Veloce — by Muzio Clementi
- Children’s Corner: Dr Gradus ad Parnassum — by Claude Debussy
- La boîte à joujoux: Excerpts from Prelude, Tableau I, and Epilogue — by Debussy
- Pour les cinq doigts — by Debussy
- Les Tourbillons — by Jean-Philippe Rameau
- Pour les huit doigts — by Debussy
- Gavotte et doubles — by Rameau
- Suite Bergamasque: Prelude — Debussy
- Pour les agréments — Debussy
- La Poule — Rameau