Author Topic: Debussy's Corner  (Read 50414 times)

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Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #40 on: October 12, 2008, 09:31:51 PM »
One more point:

P&M  is not a 'modernist drama par excellence' as some perverse directors and conductors have said in recent years. .... Listen folks, it was composed in the final years of  the 19th century  -  it is a work of post-Wagnerian impressionist decadence and romanticism. 

And just to be clear, Pink: you've taken pains in the past to point out that there are only THREE Debussy works you consider worthy of your attention: La Mer, Faun, and P&M.

This hardly makes you an expert on Debussy's muse.

You simply can't take three works and decide you "have him all figured out". Debussy deserves much more credit than that.

If you move PAST these three works the picture of Debussy as a major lead-in to modernism is readily apparent. Actually, it's apparent in these three works, too, but I'll wager Karajan is your guide in these works which unfairly portrays Debussy in that shimmering post-Wagnerian light you so favor. Which is unfair to Debussy.

Anyway, if you REALLY loved Debussy you'd give him the benefit of an unbiased appraisal and listen with open ears to the entirety of his highly diverse output. Only then will you do true justice to a composer whose many heights stretch far beyond the romantics (including Wagner).


Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

lukeottevanger

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #41 on: October 12, 2008, 11:15:33 PM »
I think this is one of the most deliciously crazy posts I've ever read:

My esteemed Luke, I am afraid that here you are mistaken...  :)

Review the critical commentary on  P&M  over the past 100 years (all of the books, reviews, monographs, etc) and catalogue the number of times you see the following words:

Unique, refined, exquisite, sensitive, delicate beauty, individual harmonies, atmospheric, blended subtlety and simplicity, sophistication, grave reticence, lovely, eloquence, otherworldly, enchanting, hypnotic, sui generis.

And then compare it against Bartok's  Bluebeard Castle  (or anything by Stravinsky for that matter)

Do you see now ? There is something VERY special here and both the music scholars and general opera public have recognized this.

This is not to take away from Stravinsky's greatness as a composer but there is just no comparing the sophistication, refinement and exquisiteness found in Debussy's opera to anything by Stravinsky (or Bartok). 

And here is another review [excerpted] from Lawrence Gilman:

"This is a score rich in beauty and strangeness, yet the music has often a deceptive naïveté, a naïveté that is so extreme that it reveals itself, finally, as the quintessence of subtlety and reticence...  And it is a 'a magic orchestra'—an orchestra of indescribable richness, delicacy, and suppleness—an orchestra that melts and shimmers with opalescent hues—an orchestra that has substance without density, sonority without blatancy, refinement without thinness..."

Oh, Eric, where do we start here? With the fact that you use your lovingly collected bunch of positive critical commentary as 'proof' of anything? With your convenient discarding of all the reviews which damn Pelleas heavily? With your belief that:

Unique, refined, exquisite, sensitive, delicate beauty, individual harmonies, atmospheric, blended subtlety and simplicity, sophistication, grave reticence, lovely, eloquence, otherworldly, enchanting, hypnotic, sui generis.

are the only adjectives worth striving for?

Eric, you've fallen in love with P+M, of course, and have spent many hours delving into the literature to find the opinions of others on it. (Hence of course, all the P+M PMs you send out asking for those opinons). Nothing wrong with loving P+M - there are few works I love more myself. But your monomania has blinded you to the fact that exactly the sort of extreme swooning critical commentary you've collected and triumphantly brandished for P+M could easily be collected for Bluebeard, Le Sacre, Tapiola.... - I mention three works discussed recently which are in historical terms, in musical terms, in terms of critical reception every bit as garlanded and revered as P+M. And, to be honest, although you have your peculiar prioritising of certain adjectives  ::) , I am positive that exactly the collection you printed above

Unique, refined, exquisite, sensitive, delicate beauty, individual harmonies, atmospheric, blended subtlety and simplicity, sophistication, grave reticence, lovely, eloquence, otherworldly, enchanting, hypnotic, sui generis.

will have been applied to Bluebeard and Tapiola too. Not all of them to Le Sacre, perhaps, but its aims are elsewhere.

Attempting to set P+M apart from all others by selectively reading reviews of it (and selectively ignoring reviews of other pieces) just won't wash, then. P+M is a stand-alone work, of course, but only in the sense that Bluebeard, Tapiola, Le Sacre and many, many other pieces are equally stand-alone works, equally lauded and loved by critics and listeners alike, works about which one could just as easily and justifiably say, as you do of P+M:

Quote from: Eric the Pink
There is something VERY special here and both the music scholars and general [opera] public have recognized this.

It's just that something about P+M has grabbed you and your taste for a certain type of expression, and from this you extrapolate that P+M's stand-aloneness is of a different and better sort to the stand-aloneness of other pieces.

I love this example of your blinkered viewpoint, btw: speaking of Bluebeard, you say

Quote from: Eric the Pink
I was dying to go back to Debussy's incomparable prelude to Act 1 - how those divided and muted cellos, double-basses and bassoons intone that solemn and brooding theme...

which description, I suppose, is meant to remind us how very different P+M is from all other music. Instead it reminded me how very comparable are the openings of these two very comparable operas.

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #42 on: October 13, 2008, 03:57:25 AM »
Instead it reminded me how very comparable are the openings of these two very comparable operas.

Luke,

P&M  and  Bluebeard's Castle  are definitely not similar in aesthetic or technique.

Is that what you are saying ?

lukeottevanger

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #43 on: October 13, 2008, 03:58:50 AM »
We who are left behind with this masterpiece should do with it as we please...  P&M  only works if it is taken at a very slow and ponderous tempo while at the same time sounding as lush and superheated as possible.   

Another non sequitur. 'Do you what you want, but the only correct way is the way I say.'   ::) BTW, the approach you advocate towards P+M is an absolute turnoff to me. I adore this piece, but played the way you describe it, it would have me reaching for the off switch quickly. As you say elsewhere - correctly - P+M is a remarkably delicate work. In fact the most striking thing about it, to my mind, is the way in which Debussy makes silence, suggestion and restraint a key player in the drama. How one can wish to slow down 'superheat' this is beyond me - sounds very crass and unmusical.

The ideal recording, to me, is Desormiere - whose light and delicate but supremely expressive reading only serves to highlight the depths which fall into the silences in this work. It's not a piece which needs heavy underscoring IMO.

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #44 on: October 13, 2008, 03:59:14 AM »
Trying to deny Debussy's place in the modernist spectrum is like denying the sun emits light. You can't win. The facts are that Debussy lead the charge straight into modernism. Deal with it.

Of course he did but I don't care about that because I was referring only to  P&M  there. It is a late Romantic work and I don't care what anybody says... I love the French tradition of sweetness and gentleness.
 
No, Pink. Your vaunted Karajan is guilty of making P&M sound as if it's Parsifal's offspring but that's not what Debussy intended.

Downyn,

I don't give a damn what Debussy intended.

We who are left behind with this masterpiece should do with it as we please...  P&M  only works if it is taken at a very slow and ponderous tempo while at the same time sounding as lush and superheated as possible.   

Btw, I attended all 5 performances of  P&M  at the Metropolitan Opera back in February of 2005 under James Levine and let me tell you something.... it sounded VERY MUCH like the 1978 Karajan recording.

It was very lush and delicate and that made me so happy...  :)

lukeottevanger

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #45 on: October 13, 2008, 04:10:14 AM »
Nice editing, Eric. Future generations would wonder how I managed to quote something which hadn't yet been posted, if they were ever fool enough to read this thread.  ;D


Luke,

P&M  and  Bluebeard's Castle  are definitely not similar in aesthetic or technique.

Is that what you are saying ?


Eric, I don't think you're in a position to talk about technique, especially not 'definitively' as you try to here. Not as you are explicitly not interested in knowing anything about it. But maybe you'd be interested to know that P+M and Bluebeard are manifestly very similar in technique, and in aesthetic stance too. That's why every single study on Bluebeard that I've read ends up talking about the technical and artistic links with Pelleas extensively. And I was reading two pretty lengthy and penetrating ones this morning, FWIW. The music shares all manner of technical similarities - and the aesthetic worlds of the two operas are closely intertwined. (Not surprisingly since Bluebeard is a subject taken from Maeterlinck). If I really have to I can quote extensively from all manner of people on this - as I know how much you love quotation. However, I also know you only take notice of quotation when I agrees with your prejudices, so there's probably not much point in my bothering

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #46 on: October 13, 2008, 04:12:49 AM »
Another non sequitur. 'Do you what you want, but the only correct way is the way I say.'   ::) BTW, the approach you advocate towards P+M is an absolute turnoff to me. I adore this piece, but played the way you describe it, it would have me reaching for the off switch quickly. As you say elsewhere - correctly - P+M is a remarkably delicate work. In fact the most striking thing about it, to my mind, is the way in which Debussy makes silence, suggestion and restraint a key player in the drama. How one can wish to slow down 'superheat' this is beyond me - sounds very crass and unmusical.

The ideal recording, to me, is Desormiere - whose light and delicate but supremely expressive reading only serves to highlight the depths which fall into the silences in this work. It's not a piece which needs heavy underscoring IMO.

But Luke, I need to hear the indebtedness to Richard Wagner in practically every measure...

0:)

Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #47 on: October 13, 2008, 04:21:12 PM »
I don't give a damn what Debussy intended.

We who are left behind with this masterpiece should do with it as we please...  P&M  only works if it is taken at a very slow and ponderous tempo while at the same time sounding as lush and superheated as possible.

Goodness, only works at a ponderous tempo?? Here's what Debussy himself had to say about ponderous and P&M:


Quote
"I have tried to beat out a path where others can follow by adding their own discoveries and by ridding dramatic music of the heavy constraint from which it has suffered for so long a time".

"The characters of [P&M] endeavor to sing like real persons, and not in an arbitrary language built on antiquated traditions".

So you really SHOULD give a damn about what Debussy intended because it was his life's work to make music NEW!! Strip away the old...

So those who portray P&M as a modernist masterpiece are actually adhering to Debussy's wishes, his expressed desires. Nothing "perverse" (as you put it) in that at all!!

BTW, your dates are wrong. Debussy completed P&M in 1901!! And subsequently not premiered until the bad old 20th century.



Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #48 on: October 14, 2008, 05:16:52 PM »
Goodness, only works at a ponderous tempo?? Here's what Debussy himself had to say about ponderous and P&M:

So you really SHOULD give a damn about what Debussy intended because it was his life's work to make music NEW!! Strip away the old...

So those who portray P&M as a modernist masterpiece are actually adhering to Debussy's wishes, his expressed desires. Nothing "perverse" (as you put it) in that at all!!

Downyn,

I've listened to those pre-war recordings, Desormiere, etc. and they are a great disappointment.. They're too damn 'thin', airy and fleet!

Quote
BTW, your dates are wrong. Debussy completed P&M in 1901!! And subsequently not premiered until the bad old 20th century.

Well, yes, the orchestral interludes were but the bulk of it was composed in the 1890's... Either way, the only thing that matters is how it sounds and the fact of the matter is that it's a highly sophisticated, late Romantic work, with no trace of acerbity.





Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #49 on: October 14, 2008, 06:00:48 PM »
I've listened to those pre-war recordings, Desormiere, etc. and they are a great disappointment.. They're too damn 'thin', airy and fleet!

Which is exactly what Debussy was shooting for! Did you not read my Debussy quotes above??

Quote
Well, yes, the orchestral interludes were but the bulk of it was composed in the 1890's...

The 1890s is the point of origin for modernism.

Quote
Either way, the only thing that matters is how it sounds and the fact of the matter is that it's a highly sophisticated, late Romantic work, with no trace of acerbity.

You do understand that your whole approach to Debussy is in complete opposition to what he represents?

Yes, it may be fun to dream about a plush P&M but to do so is to miss its expressed purpose (again, see quotes above).


Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #50 on: October 14, 2008, 06:10:58 PM »
Yes, it may be fun to dream about a plush P&M but to do so is to miss its expressed purpose (again, see quotes above)

O.k... But why then did Karajan do what he did in 1978 ?

I am aware that it was a controversial recording but it has many devoted fans and it did garner one of EMI's greatest recordings of the century award.

Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #51 on: October 14, 2008, 06:21:26 PM »
O.k... But why then did Karajan do what he did in 1978 ?

You'll have to put that to HvK.

Quote
I am aware that it was a controversial recording but it has many devoted fans and it did garner one of EMI's greatest recordings of the century award.

EMI's GROTC isn't an "award". It's marketing.


Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #52 on: October 14, 2008, 06:27:18 PM »
You'll have to put that to HvK.

Downyn,

Still, you personally will have to concede that there are at least  some  great and unusual beauties in his recording.

Quote
EMI's GROTC isn't an "award". It's marketing

Huh.

???
« Last Edit: October 14, 2008, 06:36:40 PM by The Ardent Pelleastre »

Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #53 on: October 14, 2008, 06:47:25 PM »
Huh.

???

EMI's Great Recordings Of The Century (GROTC) isn't an award.

It's just a way to market recordings. Record companies do it all the time. Look at DG's "Originals" series.


Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #54 on: October 14, 2008, 06:55:33 PM »
EMI's Great Recordings Of The Century (GROTC) isn't an award.

It's just a way to market recordings. Record companies do it all the time. Look at DG's "Originals" series.

O.k.

But are you saying that there is nothing worthwhile to hear or beautiful in the Karajan recording ?

Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #55 on: October 14, 2008, 07:10:24 PM »
Pink, do you have any thoughts on world hunger??


Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

karlhenning

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #56 on: October 15, 2008, 05:39:21 AM »
Or any of a number of topics, Eric, absolutely irrelevant to Prokofiev or Stravinsky?

Legumes

Reusable bags

Hybrid vehicles

Sugar substitutes

Crinkle-cut fries

Microwaves

The taxation of apparel

The Estonian-Latvian border

Salinity of the Bay of Bothnia

Elgar

Your favorite ice cream

How so very very much you luuuuuuv Debussy's opera


karlhenning

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #57 on: October 15, 2008, 07:20:55 AM »
I, too, find the preludes to be one of the best piano cycles of all time.  I don't (think I) agree with Karl's description of them as uneven.

I don't think I described them as uneven;  probably I reported hearing others so describe them, but it is not a description I endorse.

karlhenning

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #58 on: October 15, 2008, 07:25:09 AM »
Gosh, all it took was a judicious mod pulling the off-topic Debussy dross from the Prokofiev Vs. Stravinsky thread, and this thread doubles in volume!

A couple of nights ago I revisited both Jeux and the Images pour orchestre (Martinon/ORTF National Orchestra) . . . absolutely wonderful, and Debussy at the top of his form.

Offline Brewski

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Re: Debussy's Corner
« Reply #59 on: October 15, 2008, 07:29:51 AM »
Gosh, all it took was a judicious mod pulling the off-topic Debussy dross from the Prokofiev Vs. Stravinsky thread, and this thread doubles in volume!

 ;D

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