Claude Debussy and the Piano

Claude Debussy playing the piano at Ernest Chausson 's home. Claude Debussy was one of the greatest composers of piano music. The "Pianoforte" (soft-loud) as is its original Italian name, evolved from the harpsichord during the 18th century. Only in the next century, however, did it grow in size, wealth and tonal power. Beethoven , Schumann , Chopin , Liszt and Brahms wrote their best compositions for it. At the time of Debussy, that is, at the beginning of the 20th century, the piano had reached the peak of its development. Debussy took full advantage of this fact, writing music that made full use of the spectrum of the keyboard and the dynamics of the piano (the degree of softness and intensity).  He also used the pedals in a special way, giving duration to certain notes or chords at the same time as others are played, thus mixing their sounds. In this way he utilized the piano as the composers before him had not even imagined. Some of his pianistic compositions, with

Bedřich Smetana - String Quartet No. 1 in E minor

 

 Smetana loved polka and often used its rhythm in his work, as in String Quartet No. 1.


The intensity of this autobiographical work with nationalistic elements has an emotional depth unprecedented throughout Smetana's work.

Smetana's hearing loss was heralded in 1847 by a permanent and unbearable hum in his ears (medical tinnitus). When in 1876 he found that his hearing would never be restored, he began composing the String Quartet No. 1 a four-movement chamber composition. With this work, Bedřich Smetana musically expressed the anguish and pain caused by his hearing loss.

Twenty-one years had passed since his last chamber music composition, the Piano Trio in G minor, with which he had expressed his sadness at the loss of his four-year-old daughter. Once again, he turned to chamber music in search of solace in his personal tragedy.

Smetana himself described the String Quartet as "a memory of my life and the destruction of absolute deafness". Each of the first three parts describes a phase of his youth when he could still dream. The romantic melodies of the first part recall his love for art, while the rhythms of the polka of the second part underline his love for dance music.

Sunny pictures

The sunny images mature in the third part, as he reveals the great love he felt for his first wife, Kateřina Kolářová. In the fourth and final part, the triumph he felt as one of the founders of Czech national music is thwarted by the painful discovery of his deafness.

With the long piercing cry of the highest E note in the finale, Smetana describes the incessant hum that preceded his deafness. Yet the work ends in an almost inexplicable serenity, considering the composer's condition. After all, there is a faint hope of recovery before Smetana realizes that his youthful dream will never be fulfilled. The feeling that dominates as the last note fades, is a painful sadness for what has been lost.

Bedřich Smetana wrote String Quartet No. 1 in just three months, from October to December 1876, however it was published in 1880 by František Augustin Urbánek in Prague. The reception of the work was extremely enthusiastic and inaugurated a whole series of Czech chamber works, in which the composers expressed their most deep feelings.


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