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#440772 - 11/18/03 03:23 AM Question about notation interpretation, DeBussy's Reverie
ChickGrand Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 3202
Loc: Midwest U.S.
I have two questions about interpretation of the notation in DeBussy's "Reverie". Aside from these two questions, I have no problem with the rest of the piece and it's coming along fluidly. I just want to be sure as I move toward committing this piece to mental memory and muscle memory that I handle these two places correctly. I'm hoping someone among you can tell me how it should be properly interpreted.

My first question refers to the several instances in the first few measures where the Bb is noted as a whole note Bb, immediately followed by another Bb leading a group of 8th notes. In the picture below, I have drawn red arrows on the left instance of this. How do you play this? Each Bb separately, or one Bb with the duration of the whole plus an 8th? Ordinarily, I would interpret it as a whole Bb, followed by a separate 8th Bb since there's no slur in the first--if it were not for the instance indicated in blue on the right of the picture below. The slur from an 8th Bb to the next Bb, underneath the whole Bb confuses me. Does this suggest a single Bb, with the duration of a whole and two 8th notes? Ordinarily I'd play two slurred 8th notes (like those indicated ** in green) with the duration of a quarter, as a single note, but then how to accommodate the whole note of the same pitch in between. (????) When I listen to recordings of the piece, it sounds to me as if in the first instance, the whole and 8th Bb's are played as if slurred, a single note with a combined value. The second instance with the two slurred 8th's and the whole sounds like it's played as two separate notes, perhaps one with the value of a quarter for the slurred 8th's followed by the whole. Is this how that should be played?



The second question I have is further into the piece illustrated by the second picture. It appears to me that the G ledger-lined up from the bass clef is the same G noted in the treble clef on the same beat. Am I missing something here about the octaves? (I've seen this occur in other DeBussy work.) As I look at picture two, I realize I have one other question. The straight line over the half-note Eb--what does this straight line mean?



Also, I want to say as others did in another thread here--I often read a lot here, though I seldom post. I particularly appreciate many of the discussions and pointers and, like so many others, have saved many threads for the valuable information contained. For example, I was particularly interested in the discussion about grace notes, on beat, before beat, etc., and the historical evolution of interpretation. Thank you in advance for any insight you have to offer on these particular questions about "Reverie".

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#440773 - 11/18/03 06:02 AM Re: Question about notation interpretation, DeBussy's Reverie
Sketchee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/23/03
Posts: 198
Loc: Beltsville, MD
Note that the time signature here is C, 4/4. The whole note Bb and eighth note Bb are both on beat one! The whole note and eight note share the same first beat and while the eighth note is part of the arpeggio, the whole note is sustained. What is being said here is play the eight notes as written and hold the first note for the duration of the measure. So the rhythm is the eight note rhythm with the first note held. When you get to measure 2, the first beat is tied over so you won't play a note there. You'll basically be playing the eighth note rhythm but holding the Bb. There are a few places in this piece that are similar to this.

It's written this way just to show two lines of melodic information are going on. Same goes for your second question. Yes, it's the same note but it's part of a different melodic line so it's just written this way even though you're going to have to release the right hand G to play the left hand note.

The straight line is a tenuto accent mark. It means to sustain the note for its full value. Told the Eb with the second finger while doing the octave notes.
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#440774 - 11/18/03 10:13 AM Re: Question about notation interpretation, DeBussy's Reverie
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
Answer to first question: The B flat whole note and B flat eighth note should be considered unisons, and the way to practically play this on the piano is one B flat as a whole note played on the first beat of the measure.
Think of it as if it was a string quartet. The Cello might play the B flat as a whole note, the viola might play that same B flat as an eighth note, and continue with the eighth note passage. In other words, think of it as a unison. The last B flat of the first measure should be tied to the B flat - both the whole note and eighth note -of the second measure.

Second question: You're right. The G in the bass clef is the same as the G in the treble. What this means is you have to articulate the G in the left hand - do this with careful pedaling, so that the G is still tied in the right hand from the measure before, and never really stops sounding.
The straight line over the E flat is called a "tenuto," and indicates a medium accent, and a slight detachment of the note - but not as detached as a staccato.

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#440775 - 11/18/03 01:59 PM Re: Question about notation interpretation, DeBussy's Reverie
Alexbp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/18/03
Posts: 40
Loc: Boston
This notation is used to indicate multiple voices in the instrument.

 Quote:
Think of it as if it was a string quartet. The Cello might play the B flat as a whole note, the viola might play that same B flat as an eighth note, and continue with the eighth note passage. In other words, think of it as a unison. The last B flat of the first measure should be tied to the B flat - both the whole note and eighth note -of the second measure.
This is a very good description. In this case the whole note is used to indicate one voice, and the eigth's another voice.

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#440776 - 11/18/03 03:26 PM Re: Question about notation interpretation, DeBussy's Reverie
ChickGrand Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 3202
Loc: Midwest U.S.
Thank you all for your replies. They confirm what I tentatively had concluded and the way I have been practicing those measures (by instinct, but nothing else), but felt a little uncertain about. I just hate to find after the fact that I have been practicing something mistakenly. I was assuming that this form of notation indicated melodic voice, but have wondered if DeBussy could have accomplished the same thing with a different method of notation that would be a little less confusing?

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#440777 - 11/18/03 06:18 PM Re: Question about notation interpretation, DeBussy's Reverie
starmender Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 461
Loc: Australia
Yes, what they said.

Do be careful that holding the B flat doesn't make you hold your wrist still. You still need to sweep the wrist across in a beautiful melodic curve. I suggest you practise this both holding the bottom note and not holding it, in order to get the wrist trajectory.

The other interesting issue is the pedal. Listen very carefully to the sonority- do you change the pedal first on the G, or do you wait for the metric accent? This is not the same for every player. Remember also that pedal and balance are intimately linked- the softer the bass, the longer you can hold pedals on.

I like to give this piece to students who are just starting to grapple with issues of sonority, as you have to listen really carefully, and decide what works for your interpretation.

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#440778 - 11/18/03 08:58 PM Re: Question about notation interpretation, DeBussy's Reverie
ChickGrand Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 3202
Loc: Midwest U.S.
 Quote:
Originally posted by starmender:
Yes, what they said.

Do be careful that holding the B flat doesn't make you hold your wrist still. You still need to sweep the wrist across in a beautiful melodic curve. I suggest you practise this both holding the bottom note and not holding it, in order to get the wrist trajectory.[/b]
I've practiced those first 12 measures, left hand alone and both hands several times throughout the day. It seems that when I play it, my wrist (and elbow) move into the higher notes and back to the lower, sort of tracing out a circle. It sounds very fluid that way, rather like water rippling back and forth at the edge of a pond. So I think I got it down immediately once I dispensed with the uncertainty of the notation. (Nothing like clarity for moving forward).

 Quote:
The other interesting issue is the pedal. Listen very carefully to the sonority- do you change the pedal first on the G, or do you wait for the metric accent? This is not the same for every player. Remember also that pedal and balance are intimately linked- the softer the bass, the longer you can hold pedals on.[/b]
I'll consider that question consciously when I next practice through that measure. Over the last year I've rather sublimated thought about pedalling. I just do it a lot, off and on without thinking about it very much, just using it where it gets me the sound I want. Sometimes I do make pedal a conscious practice and evaluation, varying it with a piece to explore the options, when I'm really refining a piece, after it's absolutely memorized and I'm trying to perfect the interepretation.


 Quote:
I like to give this piece to students who are just starting to grapple with issues of sonority, as you have to listen really carefully, and decide what works for your interpretation. [/b]
I can understand what a good choice it is for that. I think that's particularly why I find working with this piece so pleasing. The separate voices mingling and parting, elsewhere uniting concisely, then parting and mingling again give this fairly simple composition a richness beyond the spare number of notes used. Another thing I like about learning using DeBussy is that so much of his music seems to naturally provide those convenient anchoring notes around which the hand can move up and down and all around without getting lost while allowing fluid movement.

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#440779 - 11/20/03 05:52 AM Re: Question about notation interpretation, DeBussy's Reverie
starmender Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 461
Loc: Australia
Oh yes, he's a real player's composer.

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