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Marc Coppey, Debussy, Sonata

Sequence published on 12/2/21
Composer : Claude Debussy
Year of composition : 1915
Artistic period : 19th century
Musical category : Sonata
Academy : Academy Nov. 1 - Nov. 8, 2021
Master(s) : Marc Coppey
Student : Alex Olmedo
Instrument(s) played :

"That's always an issue to wonder when your pizzicato are up or down, but actually when we do down, there's one great advantage that we can almost hit the strings all together because the finger is that way. When there's no arpeggio we actually hear the notes together." Marc Coppey

About the Violoncelle class of Claude Debussy's work on the Sonata CD 144

Master class de Violoncelle, Claude Debussy | Sonate

"Marc Coppey listens to the student play Claude Debussy's Sonata for cello and piano, and singles it out as possibly one of the best works for the instrument. Among various annotations that he makes, the master talks about how this work shows a new way to approach the instrument: “Are you actually playing the cello when you play that sonata? You know, we can wander sometime. You play the guitar. You play the flute. You sometimes play a more percussive sound. You play all sorts of different sounds. Soft, not so soft, etc. For instance, ironical is very specific about different colors that you are well aware of. You're already trying and achieving many of the colors of that Sonata.""
In addition, although the fact that it is a much shorter work than many that were written in Romanticism, there's not less content in this music.
Marc Coppey highlights that there are three incredibly contrasted movements: the first one is really powerful, saying “it is the character of an overture almost connecting to ancient music,"" while the second is something really interior. “I find sometimes you sound a little bit light. Not necessarily in terms of soft quantity of sound, but in terms of intensity”, says the master. They work on the acceleration of the bow, and the need to feel more the unity of the arm when playing, to avoid that trouble.

During class they work in great detail, trying to find the correct sound for each part, taking into account, as Marc Coppey says at the beginning, that it is a work with a lot of contrast, so the challenge is very great.

What we learn in this Violoncelle Master class

-This piece is a new approach of the instrument: sometimes it´s like a flute, a guitar, percussion, etc.
-There are three movements which are incredibly contrasted
-Importance of feeling the body weight
-Pizzicato must be played as a clear guitar

About Claude Debussy work

"In 1914, at 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 the conductor, Bernard Molinari, Claude Debussy explained that, in terms of instrumentation, the collection would feature “different combinations, with the last sonata combining all previously used instruments.” The project was undertaken at a time when Europe was ravaged by the First World War, and while Claude Debussy suffered from terminal cancer. Only three Sonatas were completed at the time of Claude Debussy’s death on March 25, 1918: the Cello Sonata, the Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, and the Violin Sonata. In 1915, Claude Debussy wrote to Igor 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 modernist than the others. 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 the French Baroque hommage. "
Anticipating modern trends in string writing, Claude 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, etc.
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