Estampes, "Soirée dans Grenade"
In this masterclass, Professor Marie-Josèph Jude and student Anchang Liang work on the Estampes, Soirée dans Grenade by French composer Claude Debussy.
Firstly, Jude explains that the most important aspect of this piece is the mood and style. Liang must find the rhythm of the habanera, which Jude describes as “nonchalantly gracious”. Liang is told that to render such an ambiance, she must channel a more mellow and relaxed energy -- the rhythm is here to lull the audience.
Technically speaking, Jude advises her student to avoid releasing her sustain pedals so frequently, and to avoid slowing down on the second beats. Arpeggios should be soft and fluid, and not too dry. Additionally, Liang must avoid adding any nuances that Debussy did not write, and keep it simple. The piece is written like a series of film decors, and the pianist must pay attention to the transition. Anticipating the change of scenery is essential when performing this piece.
Finally, Jude advises Liang to learn how to dose the sound, and to avoid weighing down the 16th notes.
Framing the atmosphere, ambiance and style of the piece.
Keeping a nonchalant, soft habanera rhythm.
Respecting the score.
Anticipating the transitions between images, decors.
Debussy wrote his three-movement piano suite Estampes in 1903 as he began to explore impressionistic music (though he disliked the term). In a conscious attempt to move away from the extended, heavy, and strictly formulaic works of the Romantic era, Debussy made several progressive changes in this work. Each movement is programmatic in a sense, evoking a particular image or sound. The harmonies are intentionally obscured, making it difficult to determine the key, though the music is not particularly dissonant. The piece is also relatively short, with each movement lasting only around five minutes. Soiree dans Grenade is the second movement in the work, and translates to “Evening in Grenada.” Like many French composers, Debussy was intrigued with the exoticism of Spain, and often sought to capture it in his music. In the movement, Debussy incorporates the habanera rhythm (made especially popular in France by the opera Carmen), chords that evoke the sound of guitar, and music reminiscent of a Moorish lament.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this piano masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Marie-Josèph Jude’s feedback and comments.
She was a finalist at the Clara Haskil Competition in 1989.
Marie-Josèphe Jude was born in Nice in 1968 from a French father and a sino-Vietnamese mother. She started to learn piano and harp in her home city before joining the Conservatoire de Paris, encouraged by G. Cziffra. She worked with Aldo Ciccolini (piano) and Jean Hubeau (chamber music), and was awarded a First Prize in piano and a concert license in harp at the Ecole Normale in Paris. She attended the third cycle in Jean-Claude Pennetier’s class. At that time, she regularly attended Maria Curcio-Diamand’s lessons in London. In 1986, she met the composer Maurice Ohana and became one of her favorite performers. She was a finalist at the Clara Haskil Competition in 1989, and won the Victoire de la Musique in the category "New Talent" in 1995.
This is when her career developed internationally. She has appeared in concert halls and festivals all over the world, from Montpellier to Bath, from the Roque d’Anthéron to Kuhmo, from Bagatelle to Locarno, from Colmar to Québec, from Nantes to Tokyo, and so on.
She has played as a soloist under the baton of Frans Brüggen and Charles Dutoit, Emmanuel Krivine, François-Xavier Roth, Jean-Yves Ossonce, Arturo Tamayo, Klaus Weise, with orchestras such as the Orchestre de Paris, the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Orchestra of Bordeaux, the Orchestre National d’ïle de France, les Siècles, the BBC Scottish Orchestra, Basel Symphonic Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra of Luxembourg, the Brussels Philharmonic, and the MDR in Leipzig.
After 4 years of teaching at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Lyon (2012-2016), she is now a teacher at the CNSM in Paris. In October 2017, she was appointed President of the Nice International Summer Academy.
Claude Debussy was born in 1862, and is considered the originator and foremost representative of musical impressionism. He was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 10 and never stopped pursuing music, first as a pianist and then as a composer. The parallel fifths, the cancellation of sensitive notes, tonal ambiguity, modal scales, and extended chords, among other things, are elements masterfully used by Debussy and serve to make his music true masterpieces recognized throughout the world. Debussy is one of the most important composers in history, and his influence exceeds even the limits of "classical music.”
In 1880, he began to compose music for the piano and give piano lessons. Later, he enrolled in Ernest Guiraud’s composition class, where he also began working as an accompanist in Victorine Moreau-Sainti’s singing classes. During this period in his life, Debussy struggled financially, but he began to cultivate his life. He explored other types of music and art forms, such as attending a Javanese gamelan performance at the Universal Exposition of 1889, discovering Mussorgsky, and befriending fellow musician and composer Ernest Chausson. Debussy’s career as a composer is closely linked to his relationship with Symbolist and Parnassian poets: Stéphane Mallarmé being an essential figure. These influences, together with the renewal of Impressionist painting, were aspects that pushed him towards the search for an original and personal artistic path. “I've had enough of music, of the same everlasting landscape; I want to see a Manet and hear some Offenbach,” he wrote while in Rome.
In a sad turn of events, Debussy was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and was operated on in 1915. He was never able to recover the fullness of his strength. He finished his Violin Sonata in March 1917, and three other sonatas remained unrealized. His last concert appearance was at Saint-Jean-de-Luz in September 1917, where he played the Violin Sonata with Gaston Poulet. He died in Paris six months later.
At the Conservatoire, he acquired classical knowledge: the likes of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schuman, Handel, and Liszt. Later on, he would recognize the artistic mastery of the Group of Five, which was made up of contemporary Russian composers (he acquired his taste for ancient and oriental modes from the Russians); the Japanese gamelan, and Chopin's music. Inspired by international art and culture, Claude Debussy’s music are masterpieces celebrated all around the world.
Photo credit: BNF Gallica