Post by Andrew Schulman Post by Andrew Schulman Post by David Raleigh Arnold
There was _no such thing_ as piano music before
Oh wait, I just did some research and found out there was some guy
named Beethoven who apparently wrote some piano music and IIRC lived
before Debussy. There might have been one or two others as well.
Yes of course Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Faure,
Liszt, Saint-Saens etc. but daveA also said this
"I'm sure many others have expressed the same
sentiment, and if anyone can name names, I
wouldn't mind knowing."
So I googled daveA's phrase
"There was no such thing as piano music before Debussy"
to see if indeed this was something musicians have said in the past
about Debussy and the only thing that came up was the exact same quote
by daveA from a thread here in RMCG 3 years ago which was about a
virtuosic solo guitar version of Debussy's Clair de Lune
When John Nguyen read DRA's pronouncement he objected, saying DRA was
arrogant. But DRA responded and said this
"I don't get it. Arrogant for an opinion? If it were libellous I could
understand it, but why insult me for the opinion that all of
Beethoven's piano music, for example, can be orchestrated at least
passably but some of Debussy's cannot, ever? This is not a negative
criticism of anyone, and it has to do with listening to the music, not
playing any particular instrument."
So basically what I can deduce and infer from DRA's reasoning is that
pure piano music cannot be orchestrated or arranged for any other
instrument(s) well other than the piano. He says ALL of Beethoven's
piano output can be orchestrated competently and passably so the fact
that it can sound good or at least OK on other instruments disqualifies
it from being pure piano music. Only with Debussy and a piece like
Clair de Lune where according to DRA it cannot be arranged for
orchestra successully even by a genius like Ravel do we first encounter
pure absolute piano music because it can only sound good and have the
true intended sonic texture on the piano.
Well personally I don't think ALL of Beethoven's piano output could be
orchestrated passably, there are more than a few sonatas that would
sound terrible orchestrated like the Waldstein, Les Adieux, Tempest,
Appasionata, etc. Even the Moonlight would sound bad too because the
sound of these pieces is so part of the piano's personality, timbre and
color and nothing else. I actually found an arr. of the Hammerklavier
for orchestra here on YouTube , I can't listen to it at all, there's no
question Beethoven wrote it for the sound the piano produces and the
unique instrumental character it has.
But you know what, let's go with it and say Beethoven's music is much
like J.S. Bach's where the music exists as a perfect absolute entity
regardless of what instruments are playing it. The music is so great
you can play it on anything from a kazoo to a full orchestra and sound
But there are other composers that came after Beethoven and still
BEFORE Debussy that wrote piano music that can NEVER be orchestrated as
well. For instance much of Chopin's piano music wouldn't sound good
orchestrated, because the melodies, harmonies and textures Chopin
writes are exclusive to the piano alone. I can think of the beautiful
4th Ballade in F minor, the Berceuse, the Barcarolle, the Fantasie in
Fm, and the 4 Scherzi that would just lose everything if they were
Chopin is considered the poet of the piano, his piano music belongs on
the piano and nowhere else. Like Mozart, Chopin taught the piano how to
sing with his long and lyrical bel canto cantabile melodies, Sure a
couple of the Nocturnes and Waltzes sound nice in various arrangements
but not the entire piano works, that's ridiculous.
How about other composers and their piano works like Schumann's
Fantasie in C Op.17, or his Kreisleriana, or Liszt's Au bord d'une
source? I mean these are pure piano pieces written before Debussy came
along so I'm not sure if I fully understand daveA's reasoning behind
his Debussy axiom.
Here's a video of Liszt's lovely flowing-like-water "Au bord d'une
source" (Beside a Spring)