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What Kind Of Ensemble Has This Range?


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I want to arrange Debussy's piano prelude "Bruyères" for an ensemble of some sort, but I don't know which.

The problem is that the original score ranges from a Db1 to an A7, and I'm not quite sure what kind of ensemble has that range.

There is of course the string orchestra (if the string basses had a C extension), but that's not quite the color I was looking for. I thought maybe a clarinet ensemble/choir might work, if it had everything from contrabass (BBb, with extension) to sopranino (Eb)...I had also considered a symphonic band, which would clearly have that range given a good tuba player and piccolo player, but I don't have very much experience with writing/arranging for ensembles that large and requiring that many different parts.

Are there any other suggestions, or should I just try to go one of the above?

(Oh, and here's a YouTube link to the work if you'd like to hear it:

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How much orchestration have you done before? Debussy piano music is hard to orchestrate well, partly because he did it so well himself and because it's all piano music and not just music for piano. There is so much that is so closely tied to keyboard technique that you will have to work out different ways of doing for an ensemble. I would strongly reccomend practicing on another piece less specific to a solo instrument if this is your first go at orchestrating for a large ensemble.

Range considerations are pretty peripheral difficulties to such a project, if I'm being frank. Debussy usually transcribed for a standard orchestra, but you can write for any combination of instruments and transpose as neccessary. I've heard his music for harp, sax quartet, string quartet and string orchestra, all adapting the original with reasonable success. But simply copy-pasting what is on the piano staves into orchestral instruments will not create the same effects. With bass instruments your scoring choices for a particular note have to take into consideration the resonance of the piano and the effect of the sustaining pedal. A loud note in the low register of the piano, for instance, will have a sharp attack followed by a reverbaration and decay that can only be partially replicated by the contrabass, tuba or drum or a conbination of these. Conversely, a short note at the start of an arpeggio is often transcribed as a long held note with a decrescendo in the basses or celli with a pizz. at the start, to replicate the sustain pedal. These kinds of tecniques will only be revealed after careful study comparing his transcriptions with piano originals. Chamber ensembles will offer potentially an easier time in performance as there will be fewer problems co-ordinating complex rythms. However you'll have fewer colouristic resources to use and again possibly issues replicating piano-specific effects. And if you can get this performed or rehearsed at all it will teach you a lot. Sibelius and Finale do not offer feedback.

As I said earlier, I would strongly reccomend not choosing this piece as a first project. Do something like Tchakovsky's Album for the Young or Kabelevsky pieces to get used to handling an ensemble transcription. Make versions of the same piece for different groups. The Debussy is an advanced project that will provide a rewarding challenge once you are more experienced.

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