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The Periods of Classical Music, Part 4: The Impressionist Period

What is the Impressionist Era in music?

Released on December 25, 2013

  
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Video Transcription

Welcome to virtualsheetmusic.com and livingpianos.com. I'm your host, Robert Estrin, with a final fourth segment in the period styles of music. We covered the Baroque with its beautiful counterpoint and the classical with its wonderful structure. Then the freedom allowed for in the Romantic music with personal expression, bigger orchestrations and a very wide range of expression. Now we come to Impressionist music.

Well, have you ever seen a Monet or any of the great Impressionists? You know that you have a scene, and it's all little dots and blurs, and it evokes so much emotion, the beautiful colors, the swirls, almost like sometimes, something's in motion and you get the sense of fog. It's an amazing thing that it can also be created in music.

Now, some of the great Impressionist composers Debussy, Ravel, Faure, Messiaen, Lader, mostly French composers, this is where the epicenter of Impressionism was. And there's a real beauty and a descriptiveness, and I chose a piece just so you could get a sense of how this is possible. This is Debussy, The Snow is Dancing, from the Children's Corner suite and listen how it evokes that snow, you could almost see the image in your mind's eye.

It's brilliant writing. The beautiful thing is each movement evokes a different mood. The Little Shepherd, which follows, for example, in the same suite. Totally different mood, different texture.

Each movement has a mood and creates amazing images. How is it possible? Well, the writing. It's the brilliance of the writing. If you look at the score, sometimes they'll have three staffs that fit all the notes in. As hands are dividing, the use of the sostenuto or the middle pedal to hold notes you can't hold with your hands, it goes, once again, one step beyond Romantic music. It has many elements of Romantic music. You also have different tonalities. You have many modes, not just major and minor. It also encompasses whole tone scales for different kinds of clusters of sounds that you don't typically hear and just the sound of something like that creates a mood, doesn't it? It's magical, magical writing, Impressionism in the masters of someone like Debussy, Ravel and others.

Thank you so much for joining me in this four part series. If you haven't catched the other ones, check them out. They're on the website and on the YouTube channel. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at virtualsheetmusic.com and livingpianos.com.
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Marie Barnhurst on February 24, 2016 @7:43 am PST
I don't know of a composer names Foray. Did you mean Gabriel Faure?
reply
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on February 24, 2016 @8:19 am PST
I am sorry Marie, we didn't spot the typo in the video transcription above, of course, it is Gabriel Faure. Thank you for your feedback!
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on February 24, 2016 @7:06 am PST
Great explanation! Would guess that the impressionist composers knew and discussed matters with the impressionist painters, since they were in the same place at the same time.
Marge Shery * VSM MEMBER * on February 24, 2016 @6:36 am PST
I'd love to hear a recital by you - your touch is exquisite.
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