La plus que lente
Solo piano version, March 2009
An arrangement for strings performed by the Advent Chamber Orchestra in November 2007
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La plus que lente, L. 121 (French pronunciation: [laplyskəˈlɑ̃t], "The more than slow"), is a waltz for solo piano written by Claude Debussy in 1910, shortly after his publication of the Préludes, Book I. The piece debuted at the New Carlton Hotel in Paris, where it was transcribed for strings and performed by a popular Romany band.
The title may be translated as "The even slower waltz" or, word-for-word, "The more than slow". Despite its translation, La plus que lente was not meant to be played slowly; "lente," in this context, refers to the valse lente genre that Debussy attempted to emulate. Typical of Debussy's caustic approach to naming his compositions, it represented his reaction to the vast influence of the slow waltz in France's social atmospheres. However, as Frank Howes noted, "La plus que lente is, in Debussy's wryly humorous way, the valse lente [slow waltz] to outdo all others."
Debussy was supposedly inspired for La plus que lente by a small sculpture, "La Valse", that he kept on his mantelpiece. However, others point to various sources of inspiration, some citing the resemblance between this waltz and Debussy's earlier work, Ballade.. It is also believed that inspiration stemmed from a meeting with a reparable violinist Léoni, who was quite influential regarding the gypsy style of playing.
During the same year of its composition, an orchestration of the work was conceived, but Debussy opposed the score's heavy use of percussion and proposed a new one, writing to his publisher:
Examining the brassy score of La plus que lente, it appears to me to be uselessly ornamented with trombones, kettle drums, triangles, etc., and thus it addresses itself to a sort of de luxe saloon that I am accustomed to ignore!—there are certain clumsinesses that one can easily avoid! So I permitted myself to try another kind of arrangement which seems more practical. And it is impossible to begin the same way in a saloon as in a salon. There absolutely must be a few preparatory measures. But let's not limit ourselves to beer parlors. Let's think of the numberless five-o'-clock teas where assemble the beautiful audiences I've dreamed of.—Claude Debussy, 25 August 1910
La plus que lente is marked "Molto rubato con morbidezza," indicating Debussy's encouragement of a flexible tempo. Known for its compositional eccentricities (e.g., its numerous overlapping ties and unusual rhythms), it can sometimes pose a difficulty for beginning musicians.
All performances used the original, solo piano version, unless otherwise noted.
- Alexander Brailowsky
- Aldo Ciccolini
- Claude Debussy
- Gil Evans (jazz arrangement)
- Walter Gieseking
- Jascha Heifetz (violin transcription)
- Bernard Herrmann (orchestration)
- Marguerite Long
- David Oistrakh (violin transcription)
- Michael Rabin (violin transcription)
- Arthur Rubinstein
- Anders Miolin (ten-stringed guitar transcription)
- List of compositions by Claude Debussy by genre
- List of compositions by Claude Debussy by Lesure numbers
- Impressionist music
- Romantic music
- Hartmann, Arthur; Hsu, Samuel; Grolnic, Sidney; Peters, Mark A. (2003). "Claude Debussy as I Knew Him" and Other Writings of Arthur Hartmann. Boydell & Brewer. p. 80. ISBN 1-58046-104-2.
- Randel, Don Michael (1996). The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press. p. 204. ISBN 0-674-37299-9.
- Woodstra, Chris; Brennan, Gerald; Schrott, Allen (2005). All Music Guide to Classical Music. CMP Media. pp. 353, 354. ISBN 0-87930-865-6.
- Lederer, Victor (2006). Debussy: The Quiet Revolutionary. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 75. ISBN 1-57467-153-7.
- Smith, Richard Langham (1997). Debussy Studies. Cambridge University Press. p. 88. ISBN 0-521-46090-5.
- Schmitz, E. Robert; Thomson, V. (1966). The Piano Works of Claude Debussy. Courier Dover Publications. p. 63. ISBN 0-486-21567-9.
- Arvey, Verna; Hsu, Samuel; Grolnic, Sidney; Peters, Mark A. (2007). Choreographic Music for the Dance. Read Books. p. 235. ISBN 1-4067-5847-7.
- Matthay, Tobias (1918). Musical Interpretation, Its Laws and Principles, and Their Application in Teaching and Performing. The Boston Music Co. (G. Schirmer, Inc.). p. 102.
- Schick, Robert D. (1996). Classical Music Criticism: With a Chapter on Reviewing Ethnic Music. Routledge. p. 85.
- Wilkinson, Charles W.; Hipsher, Edward Ellsworth (1915). Well-Known Piano Solos, How to Play Them. Best Books. p. 117.
- Salgado, Susana (2003). The Teatro Solís: 150 Years of Opera, Concert, and Ballet in Montevideo. Wesleyan University Press. p. 376. ISBN 0-8195-6594-6.
- Mitchell, Mark Lindsey (2000). Virtuosi: A Defense and a (sometimes Erotic) Celebration of Great Pianists. Indiana University Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-253-33757-7.
- Trezise, Simon (2003). The Cambridge Companion to Debussy. Cambridge University Press. p. 261. ISBN 0-521-65478-5.
- Crow, Bill (1992). From Birdland to Broadway: Scenes from a Jazz Life. Oxford University Press US. p. 140. ISBN 0-19-508550-7.
- Laird, Ross (2001). Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 449. ISBN 0-313-31867-0.
- Page, Tim (2002). Tim Page on Music: Views and Reviews. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 81. ISBN 1-57467-076-X.
- Smith, Steven C. (2002). A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann. University of California Press. p. 300. ISBN 0-520-22939-8.
- Timbrell, Charles (1999). French Pianism: A Historical Perspective. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 303. ISBN 1-57467-045-X.
- Riley, John (2005). Dmitri Shostakovich: A Life in Film. I.B.Tauris. p. 49. ISBN 1-85043-484-0.
- Feinstein, Anthony (2005). Michael Rabin: America's Virtuoso Violinist. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 149. ISBN 1-57467-109-X.
- Sachs, Harvey; Manildi, Donald (1995). Rubinstein: A Life. Grove Press. p. 459. ISBN 0-8021-1579-9.
- Miolin, Anders (2000). Debussy Arranged for Ten-Stringed Guitar. BIS-CD-986.
- La plus que lente: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Original solo-piano version at last.fm