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Debussy Sonata for Cello and Piano

March 15, 2019

CMS resident lecturer Bruce Adolphe discusses Debussy's Sonata for Cello and Piano in this weeks episode. Featuring a performance by Mihai Marica, cello; and Lucille Chung, piano.

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Welcome to the Inside Chamber Music podcast presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I'm Bruce Adolphe, Resident Lecturer at CMS, where I started the lecture series in 1992. In 2011, we began livestreaming the lectures on our website. The audio for this podcast comes from the ever growing archive of videos made available live and on demand at ChamberMusicSociety.org.

We look at the music from a compositional perspective and find parallels in novels, plays and poetry. Plus, we explore historical context and with live musicians in the studio during the lectures. We experiment with performance issues. Our lecture today is about Debussy's Sonata for Cello and Piano, Originally recorded October 24, 2018.

Good evening. And also, please welcome our cellist Mihai Marica and pianist Lucille Chung.

As usual, I'm going to begin with a slightly confusing quote. Certain judges, when asked for reasons for their judgments, cite the authority of rules. If in order to convince them of the correct meaning they attribute to these rules or of the exceptions which the rules may suffer, we ask them to listen to and take heed of the effect produced by music composed apparently in contradiction to these rules.

They become deaf when we ask them to listen. This is the nature of the cabal which has risen against all of the skilled musicians of our century. Why trouble inventing entrancing music? They will only judge it worthless. Now, you probably think that's Debussy. It's not Debussy. I'm glad you didn't think that. You want to stand up?

No, I'm kidding. It was said or written by Rameau in 1722. I mean, you know, plus chansons. Which Rameau also said- no, he didn’t. And... But of course, Debussy would have agreed with everything that Rameau had just said. But what's interesting is that Rameau, when he wrote this, he wrote it in a harmony treatise in which he was writing the rules of Harmony as he understood them and criticizing all the rules of harmony in the treatises before him, which he was very good at doing, because he really pulled it all together.

And we credit Rameau even today with putting together a way of understanding the fundamentals of music that we still essentially use throughout Western music. I also mentioned this not only because he said something Debussy would agree with, which is that the rules are taken too seriously by certain kinds of people and that there's a cabal against him of musicians- judging musicians because of their breaking rules, but also because in this cello sonata at this time when Debussy wrote it, he mentioned Rameau as a great inspiration and he mentioned Rameau many times because Debussy, even though he was one of the most forward looking composers in history, one of the most innovative.

One of the most unusual thinkers who ever wrote music. He also, and this is not unusual, looked back a lot, but he looked further back than his contemporaries and his immediate predecessors. He looked back to Rameau and Couperin and was very much inspired by what they did. Now I'll get into that a little bit. Debussy said in his version of this, “The best thing one could wish for French music would be to see the study of harmony as it is practiced in the conservatories abolished.”

Okay. Now, he had two teachers that mattered a lot to him. Emile Durand and a man named Ernest Giraud. Emile Duran was his harmony teacher at the conservatory, and his composition teacher was Ernest Giraud. Now, why didn't he study with the famous harmony and composition teacher there? He could have studied with Massenet. We don't know. It seems like either he didn't get into the class because he was a troublemaker or he signed up too late, which he did always, or some combination of his own problems, which is why he didn't study with Massenet or he didn't want to study with Massenet because he was such an egomaniac, not Massenet. Debussy.

That he didn’t want to study with a famous composer. He would rather study with somebody far less well known. Now, before we get into the music, I want to give a little introduction into the harmonic world of Debussy, because, you know, when he studied harmony with Durand, Durand recognized that Debussy was a troublemaker more than anything else. And he kept saying, “You know, you'll never get anywhere like this because it's too strange.

You have to- there are rules, just like Rameau is writing about. There are rules and you break all of them all the time.” And Giraud said the same thing to him, but Giraud said in his composition lesson, “Save what you're doing for later. Get ahead first with conventional music, then do that.” And he actually listened to that because he won the Prix de Rome by writing something that was way more conservative and technically understandable than anything that he had been doing privately.

So but let me give you a little brief tour. Pardon me, Lucile. Thank you. I think you're the first pianist in all these years to actually give me a... she... I don't even know what the word for that is. Okay. Anyway, so before there were Debussy-ists, you know, there was a whole group of musicians obsessed with the Debussy, and we call them the Debussy-ists.

There were Wagnerites and briefly for a few months Debussy was a Wagnerite too. He heard in 1889, sorry, 1898, flip those around. In 1898, he heard Wagner for the first time. He also heard the Gamelin for the first time at the World's Fair in Paris. It was a big year for him. And everybody was talking about the revolutions of the harmonies of Wagner and this, you know, this famous opening of Tristan, (music) this chord.

I am not going to give a lecture on this chord. There are so many lectures on this chord. You can find them on your phone. But to me, what Debussy heard probably, you know, everybody else heard Wagner. That, and its lack of resolution. But Debussy probably heard this. (music) Just add one note and you have Debussy because you have to do a little more.

But this chord Wagner didn't invent the chord. He used it in a special way. So it's a perfectly ordinary chord. You find it in Haydn and Bach, but what he did with it was amazing. But if you add the missing root, you get what's called a dominant knife, which is Debussy’s, really, his obsessively favorite chord. So if he took the Tristan and put that there, then he could just move it around. (music) Keep coming back to it.

If that sounds like Debussy, it does. That's because he created a world that was not only very beautiful and mysterious and interesting, but actually not that difficult to imitate. Most cocktail pianists would would be out of work without Debussy. Okay, I'm not going to pursue that. But you can pursue that and get back to me. So basically, if you take the dominant ninth chord and you, let's say you had your hand set as a dominant ninth chord and you just move your hands in that position anywhere on the keyboard.

These are all dominant ninth chords in different keys. You're not actually playing Debussy, but you're playing parallel dominant ninth chords, which is one of the techniques that we associate with Debussy. It also makes it possible to talk while you play. (music) You know, I used to went to a music school and they they taught me to do parallel harmonies.

So now I have a job at this hotel and uh... Okay, but that's not his only... that's not his only- Oh my God. That's not his only technique. Parallel harmony also doesn't have to be such a beautiful chord. You can take major chords (music) and you have parallel harmony. You can do it with minor chords. (music)

And what's interesting about this- to our ears now, it doesn't sound shocking or strange because we've heard so much music like this, and it's not even strange at all now. And not in the slightest. But at the time it was very upsetting because it didn't have something that I was talking about a lot in the previous lectures, which is there's no harmonic function.

Remember, we talked about harmonic formation means a chord has a purpose. Like I compared it to an apartment or a home- they’re the same thing, really, apartments and homes, but so that you have a kitchen and a living room and a bedroom and a dining room. And each of those has a function. So you have the tonic, whether that's the kitchen or the bedroom.

I leave this kind of thing to you. Or the dominant. Okay, That's enough of that. I already heard that comment. And then you have the bathroom, probably. But each of these chords has a function. But if this chord the fifth, the dominant seventh or the ninth, sorry, if that dominant ninth which exists in a major key is the kitchen and you simply go cut a hole through all the apartment floors and go from one kitchen to the next and back up to your kitchen and then you're back home and nobody knows you were there.

But if you slide from one kitchen to the next, that's parallel harmony and that's entertainment. Okay. So I think that's the beginning of this. Let's hear a little bit of this sonata and then we'll do some other unusual things. Let's hear the opening of this piece. Are you able to play after that? Are you okay? Alright. (inaudible)

But you're playing Debussy. (music) Perfect Thank. Thank you. Yeah. So it's both familiar and not and, you know, remember, I think I one of my main major themes about really great music and in a sense about why music endures is that music that is beautifully written has its own world of reference. You don't have to know a lot of things to just love it, to appreciate it more, you know, the more you can appreciate it, the more you can love it, I suppose.

But for example, I talked about when we did Mozart and Beethoven and Mendelssohn in the previous lectures that the surprises and the subversive aspects of the structure are built into a structure that has the normal parts too. Like, they structure what you, the expectations and the normal flow of activity is established so that the surprises have their own feeling.

You don't have to have heard any other sonata by Beethoven to think that the Kreutzer is great is what I'm saying. You don't have to be educated in Beethoven. It might help, but so here, what Debussy has done right at the beginning I have the original iPad version of the... First, you hear modal music. (music) And this mode is just a minor key, but then soon you hear a, B natural.

So, at first, Debussy is playing with two modes. This is nothing special. Faure did it. Saint-Saëns did it. It's not special yet. So, in terms of mode. (music) Minor and Dorian. If this change really gets to you, you should go study music professionally. Okay. So no, but I mean, this is an important thing. So it goes back and forth.

When he gets to the B, though, he stays on this B for a little while. And what makes it interesting is we've heard B flat. We've heard B. One of those notes is going to become incredibly special. And that's when you think, “Oh, it's Debussy.” And that's what he does. See, it's going to be the B flat because we have (music) we have a B natural here, right there, and then this B flat has this chord.

It's an E-flat minor chord that is- that chord has nothing to do with the keys we've been in with the modes. It's totally foreign. But in fact, that's not even what it is. It starts off like E-flat minor. And then we hear this (music) B-flat minor and then this. That's kind of like what I was saying about adding one note.

You get this B-flat colored by an E flat minor chord, but that turns out to be the top of a dominant ninth chord. Now, if this sounds confusing, first of all, just don't look like it's confusing. It'll help. You know, they know from neuroscience that if you’re like this, you're not going to understand this. If you're like this, then I can talk to you about it.

Okay? It's also easier for me. So basically that note, B flat, there has been no G flat, and there shouldn't be, and no E-flat. But those two other notes appear giving us an E-flat minor chord and chords can be built on top of each other. I'll explain it, this, why on top of thirds. So for example, (music) there's a B flat.

No chord. Now we have an E flat minor chord. If I add a third below, we have a half diminished chord. And if I add a note below that, we have a dominant ninth and that's what he gives us. But he doesn't just play it. He does this. (music) With the cello too, and gives it to you twice because you need to hear that again.

Also, there's a lot of symmetry in this piece, which is not typical of Debussy. More, it's, to him, this is what classical means. There's symmetry. So he said this was the most classical thing he'd ever written. So to go backwards, if you take any note and go up three notes and up three more and up three more and up three more, you're still building a chord in traditional Western harmony.

They're built in thirds. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. Elevenths are there, but only Copland and Barber liked them. But 13 everyone likes them. So, usually this one's left out. But if you go one, three, seven, nine, 13. Oh. 13. Yeah! Right octave too. Okay, you get to 13 and then you have a chord that if you move it around inspired Gershwin and people like that.

Okay, so we've gotten up to bar nine let's keep going. Actually, wait a minute. Well, you can go there because I'm going to ask you to do something. His, Debussy's composition teacher didn't ever hear this piece because this is one of the last things Debussy wrote. He wrote this in 1915. His last three works are three sonatas. He hoped to write six, but he was suffering from cancer and World War One.

He was suffering from that even more and very depressed. And he didn't finish the six pieces. He finished this one, the one for violin and piano and the one for flute, viola, and harp. But way, way before, when he was a student, he was writing harmonies that not only are little like this, some of them were more adventurous. This is a calmer period in his life.

So Giraud, who heard all this incredibly inventive, imaginative harmony, what did Giraud's music sound like? Did you ever wonder that? Yeah, it's so easy to find out now. So here's a little bit of a cello sonata by Giraud, the teacher of Claude Debussy. (music) who? Okay, this is fine. That's plenty. But, you know, it's very beautiful music.

But at first it's a little shocking after Debussy because it's the shock of the old. You know, it's so conventional and so simple. And in fact, I'm going to mention that one criticism that I have of the opening. I think if he were taking a composition lesson, Giraud, that he was trying, he's very sentimental, but he was perhaps just slightly embarrassed by his sentiments.

So he put something in the baseline to supposedly temper it and make it sound more sophisticated, which is this. Here, I- whoa. Okay, so where did it go? Oh, it's over here. I thought you had memorized it. (music) He has this B-flat. It's there all the time. It's there all the time. So at one spot, when the cello plays (music) and then it goes (singing) instead of this chord, he still has the B flat.

It's actually annoying. Okay, so in other words, he did some things to counterbalance the fear of sentimentality that a lot of French people have. Okay.

In the music world. Okay. By the way, there's a famous quote about Wagner that Debussy said, which is, considering what I did earlier, he said, “Wagner was a beautiful sunset that was mistaken for a dawn.” There's a lot of truth to it, actually. Yeah. Okay, so let's move on and let's start right at the Poco animato that we stopped at. (music)

Let's go a little further. (music) Okay, great. Yeah. The reason I asked for that is that a lot of what we've been hearing so far is either parallel harmony or this back and forth between one mode and another by one note change. So it fits, just what he did at the beginning, Paul Dun. So, at the beginning, when we heard the Dorian (music) versus the minor, (music) the B flat B, we also have here, (music) if he had left it as a natural or kept him both A flats, they both would be okay.

But the back and forth is the two versions of the mode, and then you get a really beautiful one where they just stopped. It's just, where, is it a C natural or a C sharp? So you have (music) and he repeats that again later. And so basic- and right before that we had parallel harmony like this. (music) That kind of parallel harmony existed in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance.

It was very common, in fact, the first kind of harmony that there was in Western music was parallel harmony, because it's the easiest thing, just like I was doing at the cocktail piano. If you have, if somebody does this (music) and somebody else goes and then somebody joins them, you know, that's the easiest way to do something. You sink down to third, but do what I do.

That's basically it. In fact, the earliest definition of counterpoint I'm getting off subject, but the earliest definition of counterpoint, 13th century Tinctoris, not brontosaurus. I saw you thinking. No. Tinctoris said counterpoint, and this is interesting. Counterpoint is people improvising in the same mode and ending on the same note. Isn't that great? Yeah, that's a very, it's...

And so what we have in Debussy goes way back to the idea of this simple flow following and in fact, this is something, this is the crux of the whole thing. Instead of function, these beautiful chords are really color illustrations or colorful amplifications of the melody. So you take a line, pardon me. If you take a line, I'll just make up a tune. (music)

Wait a second. Okay. If you use functioning harmony, you can do something which is not, by the way, this is not the harmony of the actual tune because it's better than this. But here's the basic harmony. (music) And of course, that's not how the tune goes, because Harold Arlen, like a lot of those composers of that era, would have a tune based in simple harmony, and then they would use the harmonies that they learned depending where they learned it.

Eventually goes back to Debussy and people like that. So, but if you, to, instead of using functioning harmony or like this (music) or whatever, that's still functioning, but this is not functioning harmony. (music) No, that's just parallel harmony or whole tones. In other words, those, these were all dominant ninths, again. These are all, this is just parallel harmony.

And if I did it with just whole tone collections like whole tones, which Debussy also loved, it would still work, which of course is what Andre Previn does when he does that. Okay, make a note of that. Nobody's making a note of the fact that Andre Previn- oh good. Thank you, Judy. Okay, so let's move on. And now we get an amazing passage.

But instead of analyzing every single passage, let's hear the music up until well, we actually, we do need to look at this. Let's just hear the cello part alone. Starting after number one. One, two, three, four, five, and play four. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight measures. You know what I'm talking about? (music) Yeah. Start there.

Yeah. Okay. Here we go. Go ahead. (music) Okay, okay. It sounds like you wanted to get it over with after a while, but, so, of course, what actually Debussy wrote is just this. (music) No, no. Okay. What he wrote is so different. This is an amazing passage. What is going on here? The cellist is stuck on one thing and can't move.

It's kind of like, it's an ostinato, which is an Italian word that means stubborn. So an ostinato just means that you repeat something over and over. It's strange to have the cello repeating that little fragment, but let's hear it together with the piano, which is really quite an innovative, imaginative moment. Let's hear it. So, the bar before animato. (music) Yeah, okay.

Yeah, it's kind of unbelievable. And the cello stuck there. I mean, I suppose we could write out many metaphors for what's going on here, but I leave that to you. I mean, it's really fun. The cello is completely stuck on this obsessive (inaudible), and while that's happening, the piano at first is in this turmoil in the low register, which is completely dissonant to the cello and then starts playing-

Can you play your parallel chords that start at the pianissimo? (music) Okay, yeah. Again, all parallel harmony. And it has nothing to do with the cello part except that they're happening simultaneously. But if I ask you to play this very, very slowly, just one bar, we can hear how dissonant what the cello is playing to the piano. So how about like this is an eighth note. (singing) (music)

Okay, It's a very different experience. Some of the notes are consonant and some are dissonant. By far they are mostly dissonant, but that's not the point because it just goes by. They're just simultaneous. The idea of simultaneous parts that are not, they're connected by drama, not actually by anything else. You could you know, there are words for this.

So if instruments are playing in two different keys, we call it polytonal. But there's a word for everything. You know, if it's in two modes, it's poly modal. Okay. That's great. Very often in the history of music analysis, people used words and then, just like in anything, discovered it was not correct. So for example, a lot of Stravinsky was thought to be poly tonal or poly modal, and it turned out that it was a different mode entirely and scale called the octatonic scale.

And that's a scale that is also called the symmetrical scale, which is extremely popular in composers’ music from, well, the whole 20th century really. It started with Rimsky-Korsakov, who taught it to Stravinsky, but it was a Russian thing. There was some other Europeans doing it, but it was a Russian thing. And then as it spread, as a sound, people were using the sound without knowing that there's a theory behind it and they were imitating Stravinsky’s sound or Rimsky-Korsakov’s sound.

And then Debussy used it a lot too. So this octatonic sound was called poly modal because no one knew what it was until a guy named Arthur Berger, an American composer, found an article written by Rimsky-Korsakov, I mean, a textbook written by Rimsky-Korsakov just for his students, including Stravinsky. This is, I think, in the sixties, 1960s. And he said, “Oh, look, this actually is a technique.”

It's not just two modes thrown together. It's a whole different concept. So there's a lot of that in here as well. Okay, let's move on a little bit. Another example of this fixation on a note with things changing around it, which we've had quite a bit of. Let's play, how about at the rubato after two. One, two, three, four, five, six.

The seventh measure of two where it says rubato. (music) Okay. And there, it goes by very quickly, but it's an E, an E flat, E natural, E flat, E natural and back and forth with the same thing in the cello, also in the piano. How about just the piano part so we can really hear the E flats and E naturals when they occur in the chords?

Yeah. The only thing that's changing is the E flat and E natural. Everything else remains the same. So this kind of back and forth is a motif of this movement. Now, it ends with this question. F sharp, F natural, F sharp, F natural. He must have been quite a negotiator, you know. So, this technique has carried through into composers and even into delicatessens such as Zabar's.

So, if you go to the last, of this movement. One, two, three, four, five. (inaudible) The last measure. So, if you can just place the first two of those first. (music) Okay. Even that one measure is enough, because what happens is she plays, you can say there. Nah. No, I’m kidding. She plays an F natural and then an F sharp so his chord, he's playing a D, the chord that accompanies him is D minor and then D major.

Can you just play that again? And keep going. (music) Minor. Major. Back to minor. In the piano. But is it going to end major or minor? Let's find out. There it is. The last note. F sharp. Because there's no clue until that moment. There's one more (inaudible) on the bottom. That F sharp gives us that. Now, the funny thing about that is even though it's F, F minor with an F and major with an F sharp back and forth, the fact that he ends it with the major makes it sound a little more traditional because in Baroque music, minor pieces often ended with a major chord.

And that was called the tâche, de Picardy because there was a little place called Picardy where they made those thirds. No, no where, for some reason, it was very popular to do that originally. Okay. Now the next movement, this is a three movement piece. It's actually a pretty short piece. The next movement, I think Debussy is playing with tonality here. The very first, can you just give us the first cello part without the piano? (music)

Right. Now, the outside interval is a fifth. If you play the A-flat in the E-flat. (music) Right. So basically, sorry, a piece that starts in major (music) or minor, (music) but this one starts... (music) It's got too many notes and it's all confused. And that is funny. Like you just thought it was, except you thought it was funny because I told you what it was.

But it has humor in it. And it doesn't mean laugh out loud humor, but it is kind of quirky, funny. So with that in mind, like, for example, sorry, if you're going to do this, (music) that's perfectly normal. But if you do this instead, (music) that's different. That happens in the piece. He's off by a half step. So let's hear some of the tonality as humor.

You will find many program notes that say that this movement is atonal. It is not. Okay. And also you will read in many liner notes that the first movement is in sonata form. It is not. So stop reading those things. Okay. Okay, here we go. Go ahead. (music) Okay, great. Yeah. So the humor is there. It's kind of obvious.

And one of the things he concentrates on is the tritone or the diminished fifths or the augmented fourth. Those are all the same thing. That's why I said, “or.” So, right at the beginning, (music) he starts with the fifth, but a weird fifth in terms of arriving it. And it's commented, so that didn't really help because that's whole tones.

And then you heard how funny the, you know, the pizzicato writing and this is hilarious and it's very innovative. His way of writing pizzicato in the cello is different from anyone who'd ever written pizzicato on a string instrument before. It's just, do I want to say something about that? (music) You have to do some of those things in order to play it.

And of course everyone does that now and even if they don't want to. But basically that doesn't mean anything. No, but it's a very, very standard way of getting around in modern music and certainly in jazz, etc.. But the Debussy makes the cellist play like he's playing a guitar and makes them do some of those things. But anyway, the next thing you have is (music) the cello plays, and then... These are all tritones. These are all, there are a lot of them.

Well, it depends how you look at it and it gives you... and it also gives you this. (music) Okay. The tritone, it's supposedly the, “call the chauffeur,” you know? (music) I mean, the guy who picks you up. It's a Lyft. Before they had Uber. I don't know. Something's going on tonight. Okay. So so basically that tritone though, tells Debussy that he can get to the whole tone scale.

In other words, he's probably planned it out and the whole tone scale happens right here. We just heard it. (music) And the piano is doing all whole tones. And what I mean by whole tones is everything is, got a half step in the middle. Everything is a major second. Now, I'm not kidding you that if you look in Wikipedia a whole tone scale, they have a really good article. It's totally fine. Okay, so then the cellist is typically playing with the whole tone scale, but not only in the whole scale because the cello is doing... (music) This is chromatic, so the cellist is playing around the piano's whole tone scale.

So once again, the music is about a confusion or a conflict of mode. Sometimes it's in one chord back and forth. Sometimes it's between the cello and the piano. And in this piece, a lot of the times the modes are in conflict with each other. This was an extremely innovative and modern idea, which he, this isn't the first piece he did this in but the idea of having conflicting simultaneous modes is very common in music after Debussy.

But before Debussy, no. Changeable modes, yes. In other words, Fauré, not so much Saint-Saëns., but Fauré would be writing something that moves out of dorian and into minor and then it becomes major and then it may be aeolian, but these are all standard modes. But it wouldn't be two of them at the same time.

Okay, so a little more of this. That movement is quite entertaining and it's very simple. But let's take a look at, once you hear it... after four. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight to where it says, “movement.” And play... Let's play two bars of that. (music) Yeah. And once again, in the cello you can probably hear now back and forth and back and forth between a couple of notes.

Which one is it? It's a crazy decision. And in the piano, could you play the piano part as written? I mean, I didn't say you weren't, but I'm going to play it not as written, so you have to play it as written. Yeah, just what it says. (music) Yeah. There's one extra note in every one of those chords, which is the C.

You're getting very fast at this. Okay. So if you take out this note, (music) you just have these two dominant seven chords. Where is that? Here. (music) Sorry, one of them is a half diminished and one is dominant. So Mendelssohn would do this (music) with the same chords. Something like, you know, (singing) on your own, but the same two things. If you just go back and forth like, which one do I want?

I'll take that piece. That's the Zabar's part. Okay, But you go back and forth like this. This isn't even parallel. This is just kind of a lack of decision on purpose. It's a back and forth with, like we said, with this (music) and with this. (music) Over over this piece wrestles with which note is important. In fact, one of the main motifs of this piece is that idea of going back and forth between how can you present this chord or how can you present this mode?

Which is... Because for him it was really fun to do that and it's a challenge. And it was very, the kind of thing that I'm sure earlier on you Giraud and Durante probably had over lunch and a lot of discussion about this. You know he goes back and forth. This note, that note, this note, that note.

Okay, that's a direct quote. Now, the last movement we'll just skip to the last movement for- oh, you know what? Yeah, we sort of need to. Should we? Yeah, because I think, oh, no, let's go back a little bit. Another thing that goes along with going back and forth is different contexts for one note or two notes. Pardon. So, for example, if you have one note and this is true for many composers before Debussy, but with Debussy, it's quite different because of the freedom of modality.

This note can be accompanied by all, let's say this note exists in all these chords. (music) And there are a lot more. What times is it? Okay, so for a composer to use the different contexts for a note is interesting and fun. It creates drama like, you know, in Schubert when he goes... (music) He never did that, but he could have done that.

And it's the same idea. Rossini probably did that. Same exact idea. Okay, so can we hear the passage with the C Sharps and B's, which is... Where is that? At... after five. Okay, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 11, 12. Let's start 12 before five, which is one, there's a (inaudible) and then a rubato.

Does that make sense? Or maybe the bar before that. Here, it's, let's do it here. So that's, yeah, after five. Wait. Let's start on this bar. Okay? It's the same bar I think. Yeah. Okay. (music) Keep going. Okay. Now the C-sharp and B that you were just hearing very clearly, we've heard many, many, many times. I'll just... you can slide over.

Okay. So we have it in the piano and then the cello twice. And then. But it's always different harmony to the C-sharp and the B. Even right away (music) And then and then down here it's weird and it comes back. And then finally (music) It's continually shifting. And it's not only shifting, but there's a little introductions to, those two notes and denouement from those two notes.

But the whole idea of this passage for Debussy to take these two notes and spin the context around them. So let's just hear that again knowing that and just more than you might, whenever you have a C-sharp or a B, just play them a little more. (music) Okay. Yeah. And that's basically what happens there. And then Debussy does something which he doesn't do in too many pieces.

He moves deliberately towards more and more conventional sound and begins the third movement basically in a key that sounds like nice Spanish folk music. I mean, he has done this kind of thing before, but here it's quite interesting how he moves towards, you can stay there. He moves towards this note. (music) Towards A so that he can land in D minor, which is where we started.

So let's hear how about the bar before that A appears, so after six. One, two, three, four, five bars. That's the... (singing) (music) Mode change. And then what happens? Yeah. And all of a sudden it's kind of exhilarating. After all of that back and forth and confusion, he lands on something extremely conventional. He doesn't stay there, but he stays there long enough and comes back to it a few times.

You may have noticed, could you just play what we just played the, that. This bar. This is another example of very rich parallel harmony. Just a piano would be good. And that's actually interesting because it's alternating two different chords, but it is, they're parallel as a unit. So I'm just going to do this. No. I made it large so I could see it. You get this... (music)

Sorry, this is that Tristan chord with a note. There it is. That's a 13th and a ninth and a 13th and a ninth back and forth. So the 13th. What is the 13th? (music) A 13th. The original Tristan thing. I got a ninth out of it. If I wanted to add a 13th, one, three, five, seven, nine, 11, 13. You know, there's a passage that I just happened to have sitting here by George Gershwin that goes like this (music) and this (music).

Those are parallel 13th chords. They're almost identical concepts. He was, of course, the American in Paris. That's where he got this. And he did. It's not just a joke. He did go to Paris. He did flip out over Debussy's music, and he came back to New York with volumes and volumes of Debussy scores because there was no online way to get them.

So he had to carry these things back and have them weighed and all of that stuff. By the way... whoops. There's a big tune that comes in here, which is very surprising in the context of the other movements. Can we hear the number, rehearsal seven? That little, the tune in the piano and the cello accompaniment. (music) Now, for Debussy, that's a long time to have a tune in a key.

That's a really long time. But as soon as he gets- whoops. As soon as he gets out of that key, he does another very Debussy kind of thing and that chord becomes this chord. And that connection is we have a dominant chord and the two top notes stay there and the bottom just slides and that kind of thing goes with not only parallel harmony, but Debussy in this piece was hearing how parallel harmony fits with the feeling of the guitar.

There's a lot of guitar sound in this piece. There’s guitar in the cello. There's even a guitar imitation in the piano. And what I mean by that is there's no instrument which is so perfect for parallel harmony than a guitar, because you put your hand on a chord and you just slide up. That's parallel harmony. So even though, even if you've only learned one chord with your hand like this, if you slide up, you are now playing chromatic parallel harmony.

In your first lesson. It’s not bad. How to use it as something else. But in other words, just sliding from fret to fret is going up in chromatic scale. Every other fret it's going up a whole tone scale. And so Debussy was aware of the guitar-ish-ness of that and he, in this piece, sort of pays tribute to it.

Now, before we hear, I don't think we need to say much more because I've covered so much. It's a short piece. Before we hear it though, I think you might want to know what does Émile Durand’s music sound like a little bit. I have something. Don’t worry. We heard Giraud. That was his composition teacher. Émile Durand really had a hard time with Debussy's harmonic writing, and there are two versions of the story because they're probably both correct, where Debussy was asked by either Giraud in some books or Durand in some books was told-

I should say, this is, sounds beautiful, but there's no theory to support what you're doing. It's not academic enough, which was straightforward. I mean, it's exactly saying what they meant and Debussy famously said, “There is no law. The only law is pleasure.” And that's his famous know, plaisir is, that's the law. And he only meant his. But of course, he also wrote later, he also wrote later that it was easy for him to break all the rules because he knew them all first.

And that's very, very important to remember. I don't think this is an audience that would argue with that. But, you know, when you have a young, brilliant composition student or student in a creative field, it's important for them to understand that you have to know how to do things a certain way before you can do them any other way.

Sometimes it's the wrong moment to say that. Like when when Durand and Giraud were saying this to Debussy, it was kind of too late. He already got it all and he knew it. But they were not telling him not to do it, especially Giraut, who said, “Wait, you know, at least win the Prix de Rome,” basically. Get the prize, which he did.

And then- but when Debussy got the prize, he wasn't happy about it. I have, yeah, this is what happened. He got the prize by writing a fairly conventional but beautiful piece, and he wrote, many years later in a diary, “Suddenly someone tapped me on the shoulder and said in a breathless voice, ‘You won the prize.’ I believe it or not, I can assure you that my heart sank.

I had a sudden vision of boredom and of all the worries that inevitably go together with any form of official recognition, I felt I was no longer free.” He got over it. Another comment by Debussy that I love is when he's railing against other people's harmonies. He says, “No one has ever really pointed out how few chords there are in any given century.

Impossible to count how often since Glück people have died,” he means in opera, “to the chord of the sixth. And now from Manon known Isolde, they die to a diminished seventh chord.” And he's completely right because, pardon, if, you know, if you die to the chord of a six in major, (music) that's the chord of the six.

In minor, the chord of the six is (music) But the diminished seventh chord (music) or even worse (music) or all of them. (music) That's what he was talking about. He was talking about clichés. In fact, when he came back from the World's Fair in Paris, he wrote in a diary, and often translated terribly that he loved hearing the gamelans and the different scales and modes from Java and Javanese music.

And he said, “It made me think that our do-re-mi-fa-so-la-si-do and the harmonies, the way they're taught, are fit only for uneducated children. It's usually translated as uneducated infants, but I think it's probably enfant. I'm trying to find the original. I don't think infants is really what he meant. But anyway, something like that. Now, what did Durand's music sound like?

Here's a little example of something by Durant. It's called Legend. (music) I'm sorry. Et cetera. Like that. So, I mean, it's fine. I think Debussy would not do (music) these chords. By the way, these diminished chords here, they're kind of upsetting because it's a huge devaluation of a diminished chord to have it just do that. (music) In other words, instead of doing this, (music) he made it diminished. (music) It's like the word awesome.

It really is. If you say awesome for everything, it doesn't mean- if you use the diminished chord like that, then they don't mean it. Then what's this? (music) If you can go... (music) I know. Debussy might have gone. (music) Something like that would be much more interesting harmonically, but he wouldn't use that melody. Okay, we are ready to hear this piece, I think.

Are you able to play it at this point? Okay, This is not just the first movement because it's a fairly short piece. It's the entire piece. It's three movements. We hope you enjoyed the podcast visit ChamberMusicSociety.org to watch videos of these lectures as well as masterclasses and concert performances. And while you're there, check out the calendar of upcoming Chamber Music Society events in New York and around the world See you in two weeks.