Homage to Debussy

The music world honors Debussy this year, the 100th anniversary of his death. Pianists have always enjoyed playing one of his most beautiful pieces, Clair de lune. It is the third in a set of four pieces grouped under a title drawn from a poem by Paul Verlaine. The poet refers to dancing “masqueraders and bergamaskers,” a possible reason for the title Suite Bergamasque. The second and fourth pieces in the suite are dances, but this piece depicts the filmy moonlight in which the dancers sway, play lutes, and sing.

Debussy had an affinity with the French Symbolist movement and its evocation of the indefinite. He spoke of using “floating chords” in his music. Yet Dr. Faber demonstrates that the structural points in Clair de lune are classic and underlie the atmospheric wash that suggests the moonlit landscape. To regard the keyboard geography as five blacks and two whites immediately eases concern about the key signature. To appreciate that a ii-V-I progression in the gently sonorous bass supports scales slowly descending in sixths gives the player a simple scaffold over which to play the more quickly moving notes. And the fingerings and redistribution of notes between the hands provided by Dr. Faber’s edition offers insight into how to play this piece with fluency and expression.

Not yet ready for the original Clair de lune? You can enjoy playing it in the easier arrangement found in Adult Piano Adventures Classics Book 2. Or you can use this arrangement as a skeleton sketch of the original. You, too, can explore and delight in a moonlit landscape!

16 replies on “Homage to Debussy”

  • A truly beautiful performance, Randall! Thank you for this, and for your interesting points about the piece.
    Nicole Muller, Canada

  • A truly beautiful performance, Randall! Thank you for this, and for your interesting points about the piece.

    Nicole Muller, Canada

  • I appreciate your monthly pieces and discussion. It makes teaching a familiar piece fresh for the student and teacher. Thank you!

  • Beautiful! I so enjoyed your performance Dr. Faber! Your discussion of the piece is so interesting and enlightening! Thank you!

  • Lovely interpretation. I really enjoyed the way you brought out various “hidden” melody fragments in the accompaniment patterns. Bravo!

  • Thank you for this lovely performance of one of my favorite all time romantic pieces! IT was such a relaxed, yet beautifully articulated rendering of one of Debussy’s greatest pieces. This really makes me want to review it and get it back up to snuff.

  • Wonderful performance Randy. I wish I could play half as well as you… alright, make that 1/10th as well. It probably would help if I practiced. Michael B., Rockville, MD

  • I enjoyed your beautiful performance and also your discussion. My teacher assigned this piece when I was only 13 years old. I was ready technically but I doubt that I would have had the emotional maturity at that age to really ‘feel’ the music I was playing. I always take this into consideration as a teacher.

  • I love this piece I am a beginner with no formal tutor as yet but have been following your books. I can play morning, alexander March etc. And aim to reach the level of Debussy. Listening to Clair de made me want to play piano. I will learn to play this piece, thank you so much for playing this you are phenomenal. From Linda Alston Cumbria UK

  • Thanks. Beautiful, lovely, amazing touch softly smoothen a mind. Your control is impressive and soothes in the harmonious relationship in a tonality perspective. Appreciated to ii-V-I leveling in a structural progressions into another cloudy imagination journey. Excellent performance!

  • Thanks so much for your insights and analysis. I recall learning this as a teenager and being thrilled to identify the opening 3 partials as a Db chord but when I showed my teacher, she just kind of shrugged and went on, making me just play note by note. What a waste of an “Ah-ha!” moment!
    It took me many years of struggle to learn blues, country, rock & roll, etc. on my way to being a competent jazz musician, after only being taught to recognize notes, not patterns and logic. I so appreciate your approach and look forward to these videos.

    • Lynn, wow on two levels: (1) excellent teachers always seek the aha moment. (2) Patterns..aural, visual and kinesthetic.. are what piano teaching/learning is about. So good that you carried through with determination and success. We’re working hard to ensure this next generation of piano teaching is as enlightened as your comments. All the best to you.
      Randall Faber

  • Thanks so much for your insights and analysis. I recall learning this as a teenager and being thrilled to identify the opening 3 partials as a Db chord but when I showed my teacher, she just kind of shrugged and went on, making me just play note by note. What a waste of an “Ah-ha!” moment!
    It took me many years of struggle to learn blues, country, rock & roll, etc. on my way to being a competent jazz musician, after only being taught to recognize notes, not patterns and logic. I so appreciate your approach and look forward to these videos.

    • Lynn, wow on two levels: (1) excellent teachers always seek the aha moment. (2) Patterns..aural, visual and kinesthetic.. are what piano teaching/learning is about. So good that you carried through with determination and success. We’re working hard to ensure this next generation of piano teaching is as enlightened as your comments. All the best to you.
      Randall Faber

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