Debussy: Dead Leaves

This is the 2nd prelude in Debussy’s 2nd set of preludes. What is striking to me, and in fact astounding, is that right now, today, this music still sounds new. In fact, I’m not sure most people even right now have begun to understand his music.After all, what is this? Doesn’t it sound a bit like quiet jazz?

Debussy: Dead Leaves

The rest of the story:

Certainly many chords are used in subtle jazz. Doesn’t it seem as if any boundary between jazz and traditional music is totally broken here? To get this right took me several decades. I could always play it, but I never felt I got the touch quite right. The music is so delicate that anything can ruin it. If it’s too loud, it’s harsh. Too much pedal makes it blurry, and not enough makes it too “dry”.


Most if it is marked as different degrees of soft, but we know for a fact that Debussy did not play that way. There has to be enough contrast to make it come alive, but it still has to be subdued and delicate. Perhaps the worst part is that if you play music like this well, listeners just say: “That’s pretty.” They have no idea how hard it is to make it right.

3 thoughts on “Debussy: Dead Leaves

  1. Debussy is just such an interesting composer to me. He pushed the boundaries of music during his time to create these sort of unorthodox yet beautiful sounds that he would have been scorned for in his time. A sort of classical and modern jazz mix. It reminds me of a post-modernistic style piece yet it was written more than 100 years ago. It just shows you how ahead of the curve Debussy was as not just a composer, but an artist. Great mind, great piece.

  2. I’m convinced Debussy was a painter in a previous life. He’s painting with sound. Layers. Between this, and the one about coal, i’m starting to form a more vivid picture of him, and it isn’t pretty. 1910’s Paris? WWI? I’m surprised his music didn’t turn darker and more scornful, instead it did the opposite.

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