Last week we focused on the history of the piano, learning about it’s beginnings in the harpsichord workshop of Cristofori in 1709. But the piano continued to undergo many changes over the years and the sound we now have on our modern pianos is far different from the sound of even Mozart and Clementi’s time.
One of the changes that has had a dramatic effect on the sound of the piano is the pedal. There are three pedals; the damper pedal- on the right, the una corda pedal – on the left, and the sostenuto pedal- in the middle. This week try exploring the pedals and listening to the sound that is created by the use of each one.
The music that is posted for this week was written by Claude Debbusy, a French composer who lived from 1862-1918. His music is classified as Impressionism, a word first used to describe paintings from that same time period. The titles of Debussy’s compositions also reveal the change in how music was heard and written, in contrast to the music of the Classical era. The two pieces you will listen to this week are entitled: Reflections in the Water and Goldfish. Quite a change from Sonata or Sonatina!
I especially want you to listen for the variety of sounds, the layers of sound, that Debussy creates, partly by use of the pedals. In Reflections in the Water, listen to how smooth and “watery” the sound is, which is in part created by the good technique of the pianist but also by the use of the pedals. Try experimenting this week with using the damper pedal, holding it down half-way or even a quarter-way and then adding the una corda pedal. The whole tone scale is a grateful sound with which to experiment with the pedals. Have fun!
Claude Debussy Images Book I Reflet’s Dans l’Eau played by Claudio Arrau
Claude Debussy Images Book II Poissons d’Or played by Alex Alguacil