The Art of French Piano Music: Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Chabrier

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An essential resource for scholars and performers, this study by a world-renowned specialist illuminates the piano music of four major French composers, in comparative and reciprocal context. Howat explores the musical language and artistic ethos of this repertoire, juxtaposing structural analysis with editorial and performing issues. He also relates his four composers historically and stylistically to such predecessors as Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, the French harpsichord school, and Russian and Spanish music.

Challenging long-held assumptions about performance practice, Howat elucidates the rhythmic vitality and invention inherent in French music. In granting Fauré and Chabrier equal consideration with Debussy and Ravel, he redresses a historic imbalance and reshapes our perceptions of this entire musical tradition. Outstanding historical documentation and analysis are supported by Howat’s direct references to performing traditions shaped by the composers themselves. The book balances accessibility with scholarly and analytic rigor, combining a lifetime’s scholarship with practical experience of teaching and the concert platform

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Editorial Reviews

Notes - Mark DeVoto

“Invigorating. . . . The author’s respect for and comprehensive knowledge of his wide-ranging subject, no less than his love for it, is plain on every page.”—Mark DeVoto, Notes
Notes - Mark DeVoto
“Invigorating. . . . The author’s respect for and comprehensive knowledge of his wide-ranging subject, no less than his love for it, is plain on every page.”—Mark DeVoto, Notes
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300145472
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/11/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Roy Howat is a concert pianist, scholar, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster. He lives in London and Paris and holds the position of Keyboard Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Music, London.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xiv

Part 1 The exactitude of musical 'Impressionism' 1

1 Painting in sound 3

2 Painting in musical structure (1): Debussy's Preludes 18

3 Painting in musical structure (2): Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit 29

4 Shapes and forms 38

5 'Reflets dans l'eau', Hokusai, Edgar Allan Poe and Leonardo of Pisa 51

Part 2 Musical roots and antecedents 61

6 Chopin's legacy 63

7 'Musique adorable': a la decouverte d'Emmanuel Chabrier 83

8 Debussy and the Orient 110

9 The Exotic via Russia and Spain 126

10 The Clavecinistes 145

11 Romanticism 159

Part 3 Fresh perspectives 173

12 Rhythmic games in Ravel 175

13 Rhythmic games in Chabrier 187

14 Repertoire discoveries 198

Part 4 At the keyboard 207

15 What do we interpret? 209

16 Editions and what they can't quite tell us 227

17 Rhythm, tempo, dance and humour 246

18 A fresh look at Gabriel Faure 263

19 Orchestral thinking and the pedals 279

20 Body language and the piano 294

21 The composer as pianist 309

Appendices 325

1 'Facilement, facilement': finding technical ease 327

2 Glosses on titles and musical allusions 334

3 Composers' surviving instruments and recordings 335

4 Brief summary of critical editions 340

5 Locations of musical manuscripts discussed 342

Notes 344

Bibliography 376

Index 388

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