Estampes

Completed in 1903, Estampes is a three-movement set of piano pieces written by Claude Debussy (1862-1918).

Pagodes

This movement features exoticism from East Asia. The use of pentatonic melodies and elements of gamelan music are prevalent during the entire movement. Debussy blends east and west by creating western progressions underneath the pentatonic melodies. This can be seen even at the beginning of the piece, where the progression begins with a B major chord moving to a B dominant-seventh chord.

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La soirée dans Grenade

This movement is Debussy’s impression of the Spanish night scene, with the title translating to “Evening in Granada”. Debussy uses a Habanera dance rhythms the entire piece, using also typical harmonic language of Spanish influence, such as Phrygian progressions. 

Jardins sous la pluie

This piece translates to “Gardens in the Rain” and begins with very fast passages in  very narrow register, so narrow in fact, that the hands need to make room for each other, grappling in the same octave. The melody toward the of the piece has a scalar rise in the middle register of considerable length while the accompaniment oscillates around it.

Some editions of Debussy’s music include:

  • Henle Verlag
  • Auguste Durand
  • Louis Schoenewerk

Some notable performers with recordings of this piece include:

  • Martha Argerich
  • Sviatoslav Richter
  • Walter Gieseking

Captain Thaddius’ Hot Take:

This is a fun work for intermediate students to try. It is a good example of the exotic period of the 20th century, where composers were searching from new sounds in foreign lands.

 

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