Cello and Piano Sonata, CD 144

Cello and Piano Sonata, CD 144

Cello and Piano Sonata, CD 144

Claude Debussy

Yi-Bing Chu's masterclass

Produced by the Saline royale Academy French Music sheet annotated by  Yi-Bing Chu  is available 44 min. Cello

Yi-Bing Chu helps Kioumaz Kian refine his playing without focusing on perfection in this masterclass for the cello.

Produced by the Saline royale Academy

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The masterclass

About this masterclass

In this cello masterclass, Professor Yi-Bing Chu and his student Kioumaz Kian work together on the cello and piano sonata by French composer Claude Debussy. 

Firstly, Kian is advised to change his objective: to stop striving for perfection. Instead, he must “think perfectly” to be able to transfer his ideas to the audience. Yi-Bing Chu also explains that the historical context and the enthusiasm for Asian exoticism must be kept in mind when playing this work. Kian is encouraged to “stay romantic”, to respect all the nuances, and to be vulnerable. The pronunciation, however, must be clear. 

Chu continues to explain that the audience wants “the sound of music,” not the sound of the cello. With this, the professor states that Kian must pay attention to Debussy’s written contrasts and emotions. In addition, the student should consider the tactile nature of the piece, and how one should touch their instrument. According to Chu, Debussy wrote music thinking about the piano first, and so the interpreter of this piece must keep this in mind, even when playing the cello. 

What we learn in this masterclass 

  1. Stop pursuing perfection. 

  2. Connecting with the many emotions of the piece. 

  3. Understanding the historical context of the work.  

  4. Maintaining the tempo. 

  5. Mimicking a piano.  

Cello and Piano Sonata by Claude Debussy 

Debussy wrote his cello sonata in 1915, late in his career, as part of a project to write sonatas for six different instruments. This was a dark time for the composer; he had composed very little since being diagnosed with cancer in 1910, and was additionally distressed by the beginnings of World War I. The cello sonata was his first attempt at writing chamber music for strings since the quartet in 1893, and was dedicated to his wife, Emma. It is now a treasured part of the cello repertory. The first movement, Prologue: Lent, sostenuto e molto risoluto, opens with a purposeful statement in the piano before the cello takes over with a theme that calls back to the melodies of the Baroque era. The harmonies are obscured and ever-changing. The second movement, Sérénade: Modérément animé, explores an innovative, almost jazz-like atmosphere, using pizzicato, extended techniques, and rubato. It segues immediately into the final movement, Finale: Animé, léger et nerveux, a lively yet lyrical rondo that ends emphatically.

  • Date:17 February 2022
  • Producer: Produced by the Saline royale Academy
  • Duration:44 min.
  • Spoken language:French

Sheet music

Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this cello masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Yi-Bing Chu’s feedback and comments.

Sheet music cello and piano sonata, cd 144

Yi-Bing Chu

Yi-Bing Chu

Winner of the International Music Performance Competition in Geneva in 1986

Born into a family of musicians, Yi-Bing Chu began to learn the cello at the age of 8 with his father, who was professor at the Central Conservatory of Music (Beijing, China). At an early age he began to perform, and at 10, he recorded his first disc. At that time, the Cultural Revolution in China was still underway and classical music was banned. Chu eventually enrolled in a class taught by celebrated cellist, Maurice Gendron, at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris. He graduated in 1987 with a Premier Prix. Furthermore, he won First Prize at the Concours international d’exécution de musique in Geneva in 1986.

In 1989, Chu became principal cellist at the Basel Symphony Orchestra, Switzerland, and stayed there until 2004. From 2004 to 2018, he was appointed cello professor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. There, he passionately contributed to the spread and influence of chamber music throughout China. With this, Chu founded the China Philharmonic Cellists, made up of his cellist students. With them, he has given hundreds of concerts across the country.

He has performed for prominent figures, such as the presidents of China, France and the United States. Chu is keen on spreading classical music to as many people as possible, by giving concerts in universities, hospitals, factories and jails for millions of Chinese people who have little access to this genre. He also founded the SuperCello Festival, Beijing, and produced three recordings with his cellist students.


Claude  Debussy

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

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