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Gary Hoffman, Debussy, Cello sonata

Sequence published on 12/2/21
Composer : Claude Debussy
Year of composition : 1915
Artistic period : 20th century
Musical category : Sonata
Academy : Academy Oct 25 - Nov 1, 2020
Master(s) : Gary Hoffman
Student : Joao Goncalves
Date of recording : 10/22/21
Instrument(s) played :

"I would take very seriously what Claude Debussy writes and what he doesn't write." Gary Hoffman

About Gary Hoffman's Cello class on the Cello Sonata

Master class de Violoncelle par Gary Hoffman | Debussy, Cello sonata

From the beginning, and during a large part of the class, there is an idea that the master stands out and repeats, which is to follow Claude Debussy's indications, and get rid of different “errors” that are very common in most of the versions of Claude Debussy's Sonata: “The last thing is to get rid of the traditions that are kept up today, which we need to get rid of now. I count on this generation to get rid of all the bad traditions that have crept up in the last 10-15 years."

"Initially the master highlights how to connect the three movements of the Sonata: “[people] play the First and Second Movements ataca. The Second and Third Movements are both ataca. It has become a tradition of today to play the whole thing ataca, because, of course, it's written from second to third but it's not written
from first to second. Like everything in this piece, I would take very seriously what Debussy writes and what he doesn't write... The Second going into the Third is written ataca, I would play it ataca.”
Beyond these observations, they work in detail on the large number of aspects present in this Sonata, many that are related to technical idiomatic resources of the cello: harmonics, pizzicato, glissandos, different bow strokes, and so on, making this class unmissable."

What we learn in this Cello Master class

-In the figure of the little crescendo, there is no need to speed it up in the middle and
then slow down, becasue That creates another expression.
-It's maestoso, as Debussy writes it
-One of the traditions today is to play the whole opening as fast as humanly possible, it
shouldn´t be done in that way. He writes all the freedom in. Should be played
thoroughly close to tempo and get plenty of variety without having to make it virtuoso.
-For the whole cello line, Debussy avoids all the strong beats
-Piu piano isn´t the same as piu dolce
-All this Rubato business, in the master opinión, Debussy is not evoking a sound that is
a human one. It's church bells. It is very similar to a prelude that he wrote called La
Cathédrale Engloutie.
-Find a place higher than the nut where the cellist can play it with certain security
-What if we find a different place in the bow or different fingering that allows us to play it
with confidence even though maybe we're not playing it forte. Very often these things
happen when we're playing softer.
-With pizzicato, since there is no continuous motion in the bow, the sound will die
quickly
-The First Movement is a prelude like peace for the Sonata. It stands alone
-More activity in the vibrato but no nervousness in the motion. Active, but not nervous
-Diminuendo yes, but don't disappear. Diminuendo is just a comparative thing
-Equalize the pizzicato sound

About Claude Debussy's work

"In 1914, with the encouragement of his music publisher Jacques Durand, Claude, Debussy set out to compose a cycle of Six Sonatas for Various Instruments. In a letter to Bernard Molinari, Claude Debussy explained that in terms of instrumentation, the collection would feature “different combinations, with the last sonata combining the previously used instruments.” The project was undertaken at a time when Europe was ravaged by the First World War and Debussy suffered from terminal cancer. Only three Sonatas were completed at the time of Debussy’s death on March 25, 1918: the Cello Sonata, the Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, and the Violin Sonata."
"In 1915, Debussy wrote to Stravinsky that the Cello Sonata and the Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp were in the “old French style.” This characterization might come as a surprise to listeners, given that the Cello Sonata is far more being modernist. Both the Cello Sonata and the Violin Sonata share a modally-inflected tonal language, but the former’s focus on extended techniques of the cello seems to obscure the underpinnings of a French Baroque hommage. Anticipating modern trends in string writing, Debussy asks of the cello almost everything except long, soaring lines: pizzicato, strumming, harmonics, bowing over the fingerboard and near the bridge to produce different timbres, and so on."
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