Deux Arabesques




Numbers
1) Première Arabesque en mi majeur : andantino con moto
2) Deuxième Arabesque en sol majeur : allegretto scherzando

(Two Pieces)



Brief Explanation
In the long run, Debussy obtained "Accessit" (second prize) but could not get "Première Prix" (first prize) of the piano class of Paris Conservatory. The result kept him from getting into piano interpretation-class of the conservatory. As the fact implies, when he started to compose this two pieces - his first major piano work - he had become 29 years old already. The first piece (sweet and romantic one) was fairly under the effect of Jules Massenet, whereas the rhythmical second one can be seen that was written in the manner of baroque era. Even though the two pieces employed the traditional motif, it is appear that the work also has the germs of his revolutional and original compositional diction such as the application of parallel fifths to get out of functional chord usage. Although the title "Arabesque" means Arabic, Debussy had not gone to middle east, so it is appear that the composer did not have any particular contemplation of the word. We have some other hypothesis to explain where the title stands for. For instance, some scholars intended to explain the origin by referring to the arabesque pattern of ornaments. Because the pattern was in fashion in Paris at that time and that abstract shape should have been affected the composers inspiration. Other hypothesis refered to a musical review written by Debussy ("Revue Branche" on 1 May. 1901). Because he used the word "divine arabesque" to describe J.S. Bach's concerto. The first public performance of the second piece took place on 23 May, 1894 in Paris and acclaimed greatly. Original manuscript exists and are stored in the national library of Paris. Recently, the arrangement for flute quartet also became available.




Years to
Compose / Publish
Compose : 1888-1891
Publish : 1891 (Ed. Durand)
Format Piano Solo
Duration About 7 min. (4 min. for the first / 3 min. for the second)
1st
Performance
Unknown
Recommended
Recordings

"Piano Works vol. 3 :
Suite Bergamasque / Images Oubliées, lent : vif / Rêverie / Deux Arabesques / Danse / Pour le Piano / Ballade / Nocturne / Danse Bohémienne / Valse Romantique"
(IMP: MCD 24)

Martino Tirimo (piano)

Comparing with the fame of François, a Greek pianist Martino Tirimo is still significantly underrated. The virtues of him can be summerized his modest, sinsere, and honest interpretation and performance. Even though the characteristics may be thought not to fit the atmosphere of Debussy's works, this volume three of his Debussy recordings is a real masterpiece. His Arabesque typically proves his advantage because of his delicate and roundish piano tone with sincere attitude to the original script. Although his interpretation of the second one sounds a bit too stiffen (without atmosphere of freedom in rhythmic content because he played too faithful to the original score), the recording has the largest merit. This "Première Arabesque" should be absolutely the best performance ever recorded in the world. Every tone sounds clear and transparent with rich of intellectual figure and perfect tempo selection.

"Oeuvres pour Piano II :
Images, 1'ère série / Images, 2'ème série / Rêverie / Deux Arabesques / La plus que Lente / 5 Études / Masques / L' îsle Joyeuse"
(EMI: TOCE-3022)

Samson François (piano)
Hence the arabesques were entitled 'deux', they are tend to be seemed as a pair. In fact, many scholars or critics have insisted that these are a pair and should be performed as a diptyque. However, for the listners, such autographical or musicological concern mean nothing just for enjoying the music itself. Since these two pieces sound totally different such as the former one sounds like Massenet's sweet romantisism whereas the latter one follows the compositional idiom of baroque era, we can not find any adequate reason to listen them with one pianist. If you would like to listen the best performance of the second arabesque, I strongly recommend this recording. His largest merits such as vital, temperamental and sensible interpretation and performance cannot be found in any of other recordings. If you wish to grasp the virtue more evidently, all you have to do is just prepare one more recordings performed by others. Just listen carefully. Any pianists, from all over the world from then and now, tend to get into the second arabesque from the score (not from the flow of sound itself), so they can not avoid lining up the base rhythm (stem from their left hands) just regularly with their right hands and with every 1 and 4 beat. They hear what the score says, but do not listen what the music implies, so that their music tends to be too stiffen especially in rhythmic content. On the contrary, the rhythmic implication and posibilities created by the left hand of François are totally different. Please listen carefully to the keen 'time-rag' combination between right - left hand. Can you catch his left hand tones are slightly shuffled from the regular time and the effect creates the rhythmic content softer, more loosely and more lively? This is the essence of François magic. Even you know any other pianist who can read the score perfectly and can play technically better, they can not describe the muse who do not exist in paper scores.

"Deux Arabesques / La Plus que Lente / Le Petit Nègre / L'isle Joyeuse / Douze Études" (Calliope : CAL 9834)
Théodore Paraskivesco (piano)
Fortunately, Paraskivesco's Debussy recordings became available once again in late 2002 as a box set. Previously, his Debussy was published just one time in 1987 and became out of print soon, it is hard to be purchased. The situation was really regretable since the avarage of the performances can be considered as one of the highest one in Debussy piano works. His Debussy has the similarity with Martino Tirimo ones in the principle of style such as modest reading with abolishment of dogmatic interpretation and roundish piano tones. Because he employed Bösendolfer piano, his performance includes not only an delicate and sensitive but bold tone. In other words, his sound is well-ballanced. You can easily capture such his merit by giving your ears to his arabesques. For the former one, his Tirimo-like delicate and roundish tones give fruitful effects. Moreover, he adds François-like plump content and implication. Also for the latter one, his careful choice of rubatos and hammer-action running-time for every tone give François-like soft taste even though he can not control the combination freely as François did. For both of them, we know the better performance. However, once we want to pick up the best performance in total, we immediately come to find the fact that this recording seems to be the best. This 'Arabesque' is the kind of performance.
(The 5-star rating for each recording is just for the performance of 'Arabesques')

(2003. 2. 1 Japanese edition / 2003 2. 5 English translation uploaded)







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