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Reverie by Debussy Arr. for Flute, Violin, and Cello


caters
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I know I accepted that challenge to arrange a Romantic Period symphony that isn't by Beethoven. However, I am finding it quite challenging to both get across the essence of the symphony and not get dangerously close to the original orchestra. In particular, I am finding woodwinds becoming of more importance to that essence. I guess I could resort to a quartet of pianists if I have to, but while I try to figure out both what symphony to arrange and what ensemble to arrange it for, I figured I would do another one of my expansion type arrangements, where I take a piece for a smaller ensemble and arrange it for a larger ensemble. Besides the obvious Classical Period Trifecta, I figured that maybe I could arrange a piece by a later composer. Liszt was definitely out of the question(only piece by Liszt that I think would be suitable for an arrangement is his Liebestraum, and even then, just barely). I knew a lot of composers after Beethoven, both by names and pieces. I further narrowed things down to these composers:

  • Chopin - Melodic grace
  • Grieg - Piano works are well known
  • Tchaikovsky - What looks complicated can turn out very simple(I know this from arranging The Nutcracker Suite for Piano Duet)
  • Mendelssohn - He is like "The Mozart of the Romantic Era"
  • Schumann - Melodic grace
  • Brahms - Similar but clearly different style from Beethoven
  • Debussy - Melody first, harmony second, even the harmony tends to be melodic in nature

I then thought "Hmm, maybe I should arrange Reverie" and that sealed the deal. I was going to arrange a piece by Debussy. When people think Debussy, they think Clair De Lune, which I did look at, but decided not to arrange. I looked at other well known Debussy pieces and the one that looked easiest to arrange is Reverie, which also happens to be my favorite Debussy piece. So I decided to arrange that piece. I figured that a trio would fit very well to the piece. I wanted to keep that tender character of the original piece obviously. One instrument that I commonly use to soften a small ensemble like a trio is a flute because the flute, even at forte, still has a tenderness to its timbre. So I figured that the flute should take the main melody(except when that melody goes into the bass clef obviously), the cello should play the bass line, and the violin should harmonize the flute melody. So here is my arrangement of Reverie, what do you think?

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First off, can I apologise for not responding to your last reply on the Surprise symphony thread. I hadn't realised you had replied!

11 hours ago, caters said:

I know I accepted that challenge to arrange a Romantic Period symphony that isn't by Beethoven. However, I am finding it quite challenging to both get across the essence of the symphony and not get dangerously close to the original orchestra. In particular, I am finding woodwinds becoming of more importance to that essence. I guess I could resort to a quartet of pianists if I have to, but while I try to figure out both what symphony to arrange and what ensemble to arrange it for, I figured I would do another one of my expansion type arrangements, where I take a piece for a smaller ensemble and arrange it for a larger ensemble.

I think the woodwinds are always problematic to arrange well. I don't want to talk too much about this, but something like a piano quintet could work as a size of ensemble. A piano duo (rather than duet) or even trio would also be suitable for a Romantic Symphony in my opinion.

11 hours ago, caters said:

One instrument that I commonly use to soften a small ensemble like a trio is a flute because the flute, even at forte, still has a tenderness to its timbre. So I figured that the flute should take the main melody(except when that melody goes into the bass clef obviously), the cello should play the bass line, and the violin should harmonize the flute melody. So here is my arrangement of Reverie, what do you think?

I would just like to mention that the flute has a great range of timbres. It can be played really very harshly at little greater effort to the performer. I think here you have run into one of the problems I see with this arrangement. A good chamber ensemble doesn't keep the melody in the flute, and the harmony in the cello. Variety is important and will hold the interest of an audience.

 

I think your arrangement is good. There are a couple of things I would like to say.

Bar 11: Arpeggios don't come across very well on string instruments when played arco. They are fine if plucked however.

Bar 27: As it is written, the double stop in the violin is extremely impractical. Change the C# to a Db however, and it will be really easy.

Bar 51: Those double stops are impossible on the violin. Both B and G# are on the G string and can not be played at once. Same in Bar 59

Bar 67: It will be difficult to get a smooth effect on the flute hear when crossing registers and tessituras.

It's mostly fine. I just think it needs some variety and to check some of the double stops in the violin part.

 

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It sounds nice.

I think one issue is the chosen ensemble. Taking the flut as the leader (melody) puts the violin in a lower register as second instrument.

I agree that the cello is too gross to carry all the arpeggiated part, because in the original the left hand of the piano is not so low in register (and much more agile).

 

Anyway, when doing transcriptions or arrangements like this one is important to make the new instruments idiomatic. On the other hand, depending on the set of instruments you have to figure out how to represent the most important without necessarily writing every note that is in the original, which lead to those unsecure double-triple stops.

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