Debussy was the most famous pianist and composer of what we call the Impressionist School. His many short compositions almost all have specific names creating musical pictures, as if they were Impressionistic paintings. He often put the name at the end of the piece, the idea being you should listen first and form your own images. Of course that didn’t really work because in concerts the names of the pieces were printed on the program. But it helps us understand that the musical image was more important to Debussy than musical form or technique.
Debussy, like Chopin, explored new techniques and sounds and was particularly famous for his musical effects using the pedal. Pieces such as Clair de Lune, or the Sunken Cathedral, require long stretches of held pedal, sometimes with half-pedal changes. But the pedaling is not as cut and dried, as it would have been in earlier Romantic or Classical music. In the tradition of Bach and Chopin, Debussy also wrote two books of preludes, although he was not as exact about choosing one in every key.
- Arabesque 1 (Première arabesque): Andantino con moto in E major [download] (left click)
- Arabesque 2 (Deuxième arabesque): Allegretto scherzando in G major [download] (left click)
- Clair de lune (Movement 3 of Suite Bergamasque) [download] (left click)
- Golliwogg’s Cakewalk (No. 6 of Children’s Corner Suite) [download] (left click)
- La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) [download] (left click)
- Minstrels [download] (left click)