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Sonata in D minor, Debussy

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Published on Jan 15, 2011

Cellist Eric Tinkerhess and pianist Yiqiao Li perform Claude Debussy's Sonata in D minor.

Program note from ljms.org:

The opening movement, Prologue-Lent, is only 51 measures long, but Debussy alters the tempo every few measures: the score is saturated with tempo changes and performance instructions. The piano's opening three-measure phrase recurs throughout, contrasting with the cello's agitato passages in the center section. At the end, the cello winds gradually into its highest register and concludes hauntingly on the interval of a perfect fifth, played in harmonics.

The second and third movements are performed without pause. The second is marked Sérénade, but this is unlike any serenade one has heard before: there is nothing lyric about this song. The cello snaps out grumbling pizzicatos (Debussy considered calling this movement Pierrot Angry at the Moon), and when the cello is finally given a bowed passage, it is marked ironique.

The finale-Animé-opens with abrupt pizzicatos. As in the first movement, there are frequent changes of tempo, a continuing refusal to announce or develop themes in traditional senses, sudden changes of mood (the performer is instructed to play the brief lyric section at the movement's center con morbidezza, which means "gently"), explosive pizzicatos. Such a description makes the sonata sound fierce, abstract even mocking. But beneath the surface austerity of this sonata lies music of haunting emotional power.

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