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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000189.txt from 1995/01

From: HardReed@-----.COM
Subj: Debussy "Rhapsodie"
Date: Wed, 11 Jan 1995 12:40:50 -0500

I thought you all might be interested in some further words on what are the
"correct" notes in the final measures of the Debussy "Premiere Rhapsody,"
this from the doctoral dissertation of Dennis Nygren from back in 1982:

"One further example concerns the controversial notation in m. 201. [...]
displays this measure as it appears in (1) the clarinet/piano autograph, (2)
the Durand clarinet/piano edition, (3) the orchestral autograph, and (4) the
Durand orchestral score. [...] in three of the four examples the first two
notes of the triplet on beat three are notated D#-E natural (written); only
in the earlier Durand print (2), first published in 1910, does the pattern
appear as it has been played by most clarinetists over the last seventy years
(D natural-E flat). Which notation represents the composer's intentions?

"The "traditional" approach would favor the D natural-E flat notation. This
note sequence is heard in the majority of recorded interpretations,
including the earliest recording by E. Gaston Hamelin. Hamelin apparently
played the "Rhapsodie" for Debussy, and he also performed the Paris premiere
of the orchestrated version shortly after the composer's death. Guy Deplus,
who favors the "traditional" notation, informed this investigator that
Hamelin was a "very serious, scrupulous, and organized man." He also argues
"the first performance with piano was at the Paris Conservatory, for the
concours held at the end of the school year [July, 1910], and that Debussy
was on the jury. The piece was played [eleven times] from the clarinet part
edited by Durand, with the notes D natural-E flat, and one continues to
always play it in this manner."

"A strong argument could also be made for the D#-E natural notation, as it
appears in both autographs and the Durand orchestral score. Debussy had
Durand send him a copy of the "Rhapsodie" (logically, the clarinet/piano
edition, rather than the autograph), so that he could complete the
orchestration while vacationing in August 1911. Why would the composer
change the notation in his orchestral autograph from the way it appears in
the printed clarinet/piano edition, if not to correct an error? It also seems
unlikely that Debussy made the same error in both autographs.

"One could also support this notation for purely musical reasons. D#-E
natural-G natural is the inversion of the last three notes of cell 1. This
exact cellular variant appears in the score many times, most notably in the
"cedez", m. 123, and enharmonically spelled (E flat-F flat-G natural), in m.
203. In addition, it is difficult to justify the concert C of the printed
edition because this pitch is not part of the underlying harmony. The
striking dissonance of this C is not consistent with Debussy's coordination
of melodic and harmonic elements.

"Ernest Ansermet and Pierre Boulez selected the D#-E natural notation for
their recordings with the clarinetists, Robert Gugholz and Gervase dePeyer,
respectively. Boulez and clarinet soloist, Robert Marcellus, also introduced
American audiences to this less familiar notation on a Cleveland Orchestra
tour in 1969."


Personally, I played the printed version that we all have grown to love over
the years, but as I "grew up" (and got out of high school!), I finally
learned to consult scores and such when I study a piece of music. Therefore,
I have come over to the "other side," for whatever it's worth!

Larry Liberson
Detroit Symphony Orchestra

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