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Classical Music/Debussey's Prelude book 2 no.1 "Brouillards"

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Question
I am not sure how to use the pedal in this piece. There are no pedal markings in my score. I know "Brouillards" means foggy.Does this mean I somehow have to blur the music?
My teacher is not sure about the pedal either. Please help!

Answer
Hello!

There is often a misunderstanding about Debussy and pedal outside France (and much in France, too, to be fair).  Debussy wanted CLEAR sounds and kept saying this often in his life to other pianists.  The problem then is where and how many harmonies to combine with one pedalling.
Debussy aimed for a "wall of sound" and by that, the combination of related chords to make bigger, more complex and expanding sonorities.  When the chords "fight" is an indication of when to change the pedal.  These are quite often chords on neighboring keys (eg. c + Db or E and F).  In the beginning three measures of "Brouillards" the chords need to be handled separately with separate pedals, four per measure, three for the third.  In the fourth measure the chord remains the same so the pedal doesn't need to be changed. This extends to the fifthe measure where again the chord remains the same except for the third beat.  For the seventh and eighth measures, the pedal can remain down and possibly kept down for even longer since the harmonies don't conflict.  All the notes combined create a "wall of sound" that was specifically Debussy's domain. The effect should be cloudy and the music creates it - not the pedal.  Please do keep in mind that when rests are indicated the pedal should go up. I hope this sheds some light.

Curtis

Classical Music

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Curtis Stotlar

Expertise

Piano performance of classical music

Experience

Performances in over thirty countries on four continents Teaching experience at Vassar College and the Conservatoire de Neuilly Currently Professor of Music at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

Education/Credentials
Eastman School of Music B.M Juilliard School M.S. Peabody Conservatory of Music Doctoral Program Student of Nadia Boulanger, Wilhelm Kempff, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

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